Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
ALS is a difficult disease to diagnose. There is no one test or procedure to ultimately establish a diagnosis. It is through a clinical examination and series of diagnostic tests, often ruling out other diseases that mimic ALS, that a diagnosis can be established.
The initial symptoms of can vary from person to person. One person may have trouble grasping a pen or lifting a coffee cup, while another person may experience a change in vocal pitch when speaking. This disease is one that involves a gradual onset. The causes of the vast majority of cases are still unknown.
Here are some quick facts from ALS Association:
- ALS is not contagious.
- Based on population studies in the United States, a little over 6,000 people are diagnosed each year.
- 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.
- Half of all people affected live at least three or more years after diagnosis. Twenty percent live five years or more; up to ten percent will live more than ten years.
- The onset of often involves muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.
- Once it starts, it almost always progresses, eventually taking away the ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow, and breathe and shortening the life span. How fast and in what order this occurs is very different from person to person.
- ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries and can affect anyone.
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