Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

By: Julie Hollensbe

Definition:

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.


Also called Lou Gehrig's disease after baseball player Hank Lou Gehrig.





Diagnosis:

-spinal tap

-xrays, MRI’s

-muscle or nerve biopsy


Symptoms:

-muscle weakness (most common in hands/arms/legs)

-twitching or muscle cramps

-shortness of breath & difficulty breathing


Treatment:

There is no cure, but medicines can be taken to reduce symptoms (example: riluzole) and increase life a little longer.


How does ALS affect your nervous system?

The disease affects your muscle neurons, which sends messages to the brain and tells your muscles to move.


How does ALS affect your muscular system?

Because of the destruction of the muscle neurons, the message that the brain sends to the muscles doesn’t work, making it almost impossible to move your muscles on your own.


How does ALS affect your skeletal system?

ALS affects your bones and joints. Since the communication to your brain isn’t working, it’s hard to move (much like the effects on muscular system)


Facts & Statistics:

  • Most people develop it between the age of 40 & 70: most common after 60.
  • More common in men than women
  • Approximately 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS per year in the US