What is ALS?
More commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a progressive, neuromuscular disease that is characterized by a degeneration of the motor neurons; the cells in the brain and spinal cord which control muscles. As the motor neurons die, the muscles weaken, affecting the ability to move, speak, swallow and breathe. Through it all, the mind remains fully aware. As of today, there is no known cause or cure for ALS, although there are many promising research programs.
The Facts About ALS
- It strikes both men and women, generally between the ages of 40 and 75, although many patients are young adults in their 20's and 30's.
- In the US there are currently more than 30,000 people living with ALS and over 5,000 people in the US are newly diagnosed with ALS each year.
- In Michigan, it is estimated that there are over 1,000 people with ALS (PALS) and 200 who are newly diagnosed on an annual basis.
- ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
- 50% of patients with ALS live 3 to 5 years, 20% live 5 to 10 years, and 10% survive 10 years or more.
- Sporadic ALS is the most common form and accounts for 90-95% if all cases of ALS. It occurs randomly throughout the population.
- "Familial" ALS suggests the disease is inherited. Only 5% - 10% of all PALS appear to have some form of inherited ALS.
Diagnosis and Treatment of ALS
Early symptoms vary with each individual and ALS is very difficult to diagnose. There is no one test or procedure to establish the diagnosis. However, once a diagnosis is made, much can be done not only to help PALS live with the disease, but also to live more productively and more independently.
Rehabilitation techniques and assistive devices are helping patients learn how to work around the weakness and functional disability caused by ALS. Plus local organizations, such as ours, ALS of Michigan, can provide PALS with support groups, necessary information and caring ears.
"There is information available today.
There is direction.
There is hope."