Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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ALS is its a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The mission of The ALS Association includes helping people improve the quality of their lives and providing support to assist patients and their families in living with the disease.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

What Causes ALS?

ALS is a somewhat diverse and decidedly mystifying disease. In more than nine out of every 10 cases diagnosed, no clear identifying cause of the disease is apparent, that is, patients lack an obvious genetic history, complete with affected family members. Also, nothing about the way patients live their lives gives scientists and clinicians clues as to what causes ALS

Who Gets ALS?

Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. However, cases of the disease do occur in persons in their twenties and thirties. Generally though, ALS occurs in greater percentages as men and women grow older.

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Can ALS be cured?

No cure has yet been found for ALS. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first drug treatment for the disease -- riluzole (Rilutek). Riluzole is believed to reduce damage to motor neurons by decreasing the release of glutamate.

What are the symptoms of ALS?

  • muscle weakness in one or more of the following: hands, arms, legs or the muscles of speech,

  • swallowing or breathing

  • twitching (fasciculation) and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet

  • impairment of the use of the arms and legs

  • "thick speech" and difficulty in projecting the voice

  • in more advanced stages, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and swallowing

Can a person die from ALS

Although respiratory support can ease problems with breathing and prolong survival, it does not affect the progression of ALS. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from the onset of symptoms.