ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neuromuscular disease. ALS is characterized by a progressive degeneration of motor nerve cells in the brain (upper motor neurons) and spinal cord (lower motor neurons). When the motor neurons can no longer send impulses to the muscles, the muscles begin to waste away (atrophy), causing increased muscle weakness. ALS does not impair a person’s intellectual reasoning, vision, hearing or sense of taste, smell and touch. In most cases, ALS does not affect a person’s sexual, bowel or bladder functions.
ALS is often referred to as a syndrome because the disease becomes apparent in various patterns. ALS occurs rarely and spontaneously. Currently, there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, although the disease can occur at a younger age.
- It occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
- It affects as many as 30,000 in the United States, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
- Estimates suggest that ALS is responsible for as many as five of every 100,000 deaths in people aged 20 or older.
- ALS is most common among persons over age 60.
- The incidence of ALS is five times higher than Huntington’s disease and about equal to multiple sclerosis.
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. 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.
Source of information: Johns Hopkins Medicine – www.hopkinsmedicine.org