What Is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or motor neuron disease (MND), is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. This causes the brain to lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement.

As motor neurons diminish, the brain loses its ability to initiate and control muscle movements. Simple tasks, such as reaching for a glass of water, or walking up the stairs, become very difficult as the disease progresses. In the later stages of this disorder, people with ALS are completely paralyzed, yet in most cases, their minds remain cognizant.

ALS symptoms and signs vary between each person, they include:

  • Tripping
  • Dropping items
  • Abnormal fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle cramps or twitches

Early symptoms of ALS consist of muscle weakness and difficulty using hands and feet, such as trouble buttoning clothes, lifting objects, or walking. Living with ALS can become increasingly difficult as paralysis continues to spread throughout the body.

Later, ALS symptoms cause difficulty with:

  • Speech
  • Swallowing
  • Chewing
  • Breathing
There are two types of ALS: 
  • Sporadic ALS - The most common variation, sporadic ALS, can affect anyone, anywhere, and has no known cause. In the United States, 90 to 95 percent of ALS cases are sporadic. For unknown reasons, military veterans are more likely to be diagnosed with ALS compared to the general public.**
  • Familial ALS - Familial ALS is inherited from a parent. Each child of a parent with familial ALS has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene mutation that causes this disease.**
Is There a Cure for ALS?

ALS stages progress until the death of motor neurons between the brain and spinal cord cause a complete loss of muscle control. Diseases of the nervous system, such as ALS, cause individuals to rely on caregiving from family or friends and health care technology to maintain their quality of life. This is a fatal disease and there is no cure.

How to Diagnose ALS:

ALS is diagnosed by ruling out several other diseases of the nervous system that have symptoms in common with ALS. With no test to establish ALS, the ALS Association recommends that individuals who have received an ALS diagnosis seek a second opinion from an ALS specialist.

ALS Fast Facts **
  • Approximately 6,000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS each year
  • ALS is not contagious
  • ALS can affect anyone
  • ALS almost always progresses
  • The average survival time is three years
  • 20% of people with ALS live five years after being diagnosed
  • 10% will survive 10 years
  • 5% will live 20+ years after diagnosis **

**Facts and information sourced from http://als.org/.