Challenge accepted: Learn more about ALS

177723135Ice bucket challenges have been happening across the country. Maybe you’ve been challenged by a friend or relative. But how much do you know about ALS, the disease in which this fundraising phenomenon is helping to bring attention?

According to the ALS Association, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease progresses rapidly. Individuals with ALS lose control of muscle movement, causing paralyzation and ultimately death.

The disease is also known called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” named for the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS on his 36th birthday.

In the U.S., 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year. The average life expectancy of an ALS patient is about two to five years from the time of diagnosis. ALS is not contagious and can strike anyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic boundaries.

According to the ALS Association, “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. Generally though, ALS occurs in greater percentages as men and women grow older. ALS is 20 percent more common in men than in women. However with increasing age, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.”

Symptoms of ALS

  • Muscle weakness in one or more of the following: arms, hands, legs or the muscles of speech, swallowing or breathing
  • Twitching and cramping of muscles, especially in the hands and feet
  • Impairment of arms and legs
  • Difficulty projecting the voice
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and swallowing

While there is no known cure for ALS, there are treatments and therapies available to help control symptoms.

The ice bucket challenges spreading from person to person and house to house, are helping bring awareness to this grave disease. If you are interesting in learning more about ALS, visit these sites:

ALS Association

UofL Physicians Health Library