Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Motor Neuron Disease Maladie de Charcot Lou Gehrig's Disease
What is the Disease?
ALS is an extremely deadly disease affecting the nerve cells that
control the victim's voluntary muscles. These nerves shrink and eventually die,
leaving the muscles without stimulation. As these muscles go without
stimulation, they too eventually shrink and die. The victim progressively
weakens to the point of complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles and some
involuntary muscles, such as breathing and swallowing, and soon after this point,
death is inevitable.
'A' means "Without" 'Myo' means "Muscle" 'Trophic' means "Nourishment" 'Lateral'
refers to uneven development of symptoms between right and left sides
'Sclerosis' refers to "destruction" of tissue
The History of ALS
A French doctor named Charcot first identified ALS in 1874. It is one
of the most devastating diagnoses a person can receive. ALS is said to start
between the years of 40 and 70, with the exact average being 45.6 years old.
The most classic case of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is Lou Gehrig. Lou
Gehrig was a New York Yankees first baseman, who from 1923 to 1939, had never
missed a game and had a life time batting average of .340. However, the
symptoms of ALS emerged in 1938, and in 1939, he was diagnosed with the disease.
At that time doctors knew little to nothing about the disease and the only
suggested treatment was the untested vitamin E. So Gehrig ate a daily plate
full of garden grass, until June 2, 1941 when he died at the age of 37.
ALS affects approximately 1 out of every 100,000 people. In the United
States there are around 30,000 Americans affected by ALS, and 3,000 more are
diagnosed with the disease each year, with men being affected slightly more than
women, and in some cases, running in families. However while this is the same
number of new cases as Multiple Sclerosis, Multiple Sclerosis affects around
350,000 Americans. The difference is that 50% of ALS patient's die within three
years, and 80% die within five. The disease is in some ways quite similar to
Alzheimer's except with Alzheimer's you have a body walking around with a
diseased brain, whereas with ALS you have a healthy brain trapped inside a
About one-third of those with ALS become aware of their disease when
their hands become clumsy, causing difficulty performing anything needing fine
finger movements. Another third find a weakness in their legs and may trip
because of a mild foot drop. The remaining one-third notice slurring in their
speech or difficulty swallowing. Because all of these symptoms happen naturally,
it is generally not characterized as ALS until the symptom progressively worsens.
This happens as the affected area's muscle...