What is ALS?

What is ALS? ALS is an abbreviation for the name of a rare disease of the nervous system called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease because the famous baseball player died of the disease and brought it to public attention.

ALS is considered a motor neuron disease because it causes progressive, eventually fatal, degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. These motor neurons are the nerve cells that are important for control of voluntary muscle movement throughout the body. Therefore, the primary symptoms of the disease are related to movement, progressive muscle weakness and eventually paralysis throughout the body.

After the onset of symptoms, the disease typically progressive in a relatively rapid manner, leading to increasing difficulty with movement and eventually progressing to complete paralysis, often within only a few years. The ultimate cause of death is usually related to paralysis of the muscles of respiration, those muscles important for breathing. On their own, the patients eventually cannot breath normally. Even with a mechanical ventilator, these patients often die of respiratory failure and/or pneumonia.

Unfortunately, no one knows what causes ALS, although research suggests that some genetic mutations may be associated with an increased risk for the disease. There is currently no cure for the disease.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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