What is ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?

You may also know ALS as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in 2014, which raised funding for research towards a cure and awareness about ALS. After $115 million in donations, do you know what everyone was plunging into?

What Actually Is ALS?

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It’s also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the renowned baseball player who put the illness on the map. After noticing symptoms that hindered his vision and hand-eye coordination, it forced him to leave the Yankees and the game in 1939. The self-proclaimed “luckiest guy on the face of the Earth” passed away in 1941.

That’s because as swiftly as the social media frenzy took hold, so did this disease. Lou Gehrig's disease is a highly progressive, degenerative disease of the nervous system. It interferes with neurons that control muscle movement, and it causes difficulty in walking, talking, and hand usage. Sadly, ALS only has a prognosis of three to five years.

Symptoms of ALS include:

  • Gradual challenges in grasping items
  • Changes in speech pitch and tone
  • Muscle twitches and weakness (but without pain)
  • As it progresses, it spreads to the lungs and may cause fatal respiratory decline

The Causes Are Still Unknown

Lou Gehrig's disease is more common in men and it tends to appear between ages 40 and 70. Once diagnosed, medications and procedures can relieve symptoms and potentially extend the lifespan.

For example, certain surgeries may help open the airways. Speech or respiratory therapy may also help, as well as electronic assistive communication devices.

If you are suffering from the above symptoms and suspect ALS, see your doctor as soon as you can. That way, they can run tests to rule out other diseases and get you treated quickly.