Do ecological factors influence the clinical presentation of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

Introduction

Since its first description by Charcot, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been classified as a single neurodegenerative disease involving motor neurons. More recently, however, it has become clear that ALS is pleiotropic and its phenotype could vary depending on several factors: age of onset, prevalent damage to the upper (UMN) or the lower motor neuron, body region mostly affected, progression rate and presence of non-motor symptoms, the most frequent being cognitive impairment.1 As a consequence, different phenotypes have been described.2 It remains unclear whether these presentations should be considered as distinct clinical entities or as variants of the same disease.3 More importantly, we do not know if different aetiologies justify this variability.3 Despite these uncertainties, we approach clinical trials by administering the same treatment to all patients with ALS.3

Spatial epidemiology could give some clues on aetiology by identifying clusters…

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