ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive motor neuron disease that results in the inability of the brain to initiate muscle movement. People diagnosed with ALS generally lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, then breathe, leading to their death in 2-4 years. From the time someone is diagnosed to the time of death, patients experience total body paralyzation while their brain and thought process are left completely intact, trapped in an otherwise perfectly healthy body.
As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look “thinner” as muscle tissue atrophies.
Doctors and Scientists still don’t know the cause of ALS but are working hard on funding a treatment and cure. Soldiers, athletes, and healthy, active individuals are more likely to get this disease and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Besides Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse” who played for the NY Yankees and died just two years after being diagnosed, other famous cases of ALS include Stephen Hawking who is the longest living known person with the disease, and Steve Gleason of the New Orleans Saints who was diagnosed in 2011.
- While there’s no cure, Riluzole the only FDA approved drug for ALS increases survival for typical patients by a short period of time, around two to three months.
- ALS occurs throughout the world with no obvious racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
- ALS occurs rarely and spontaneously. Currently, there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- The incidence of ALS is five times higher than Huntington’s disease and about equal to multiple sclerosis.
- Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, although the disease can occur at a younger age. Estimates suggest that ALS is responsible for as many as five of every 100,000 deaths in people aged 20 or older.
- Many ALS patients can live longer and more productive lives because of current research into the cause, prevention and cure for the disease. Improvements in medical management, including nutrition and breathing, regularly increase patient survival.
- Today fifty percent of affected patients live at least three or more years after diagnosis; 20 percent live five years or more; and up to 10 percent will survive more than ten years.
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