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What is ALS?

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig‘s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain (upper motor neurons) and spinal cord (lower motor neurons).

These motor neurons control the movement of voluntary muscles. When the motor neurons can no longer send impulses to the muscles due to ALS, the muscles begin to waste away (atrophy), causing increased muscle weakness. Motor neuron, or nerve cell, death makes it impossible for the brain to control muscles or signal them to move.

Symptoms of ALS include twitching and cramping of muscles (called fasciculation), loss of motor control in hands and arms, impaired use of the arms and legs, weakness and fatigue, tripping and falling, dropping things, slurred or thick speech and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

In most cases, ALS patients do not experience impaired intellectual reasoning, vision or hearing. Eye and bladder muscles, along with sexual function and drive, are not normally affected.

ALS is diagnosed using a variety of tests and examinations, including laboratory tests, muscle and nerve biopsy, spinal tap, X-rays, MRI’s and electrodiagnostic tests.

ALS Facts

– There is no cure for ALS. (YET!)

– The incidence of ALS is five times higher than Huntington’s disease and about equal to multiple sclerosis.

– 30,000 people throughout the U.S. currently have ALS, and 8,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

– ALS has no prejudice — it occurs worldwide, with no age, ethnic or economic boundaries.

This information was taken from the ALS Therapy Developement Foundation’s website, The full url for this article is:


July 16, 2006 - Posted by | health, Heroes

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