The Fatal Disease: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

3700 words - 15 pages

The Fatal Disease: Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive incurable neuromuscular disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons, among the largest of all nerve cells, reach from the brain to the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body with connections to the brain. When they die, as with ALS, the ability of the brain to start and control muscle movement dies with them. With all voluntary muscle action affected, patients in the later stages are totally paralyzed. In most cases, mental faculties are not affected.There are three classifications of ALS. The most common form in the United States is known as "sporadic" ALS. It may affect a person at any given time. 90 - 95 percent of all cases are sporadic. "Familial" ALS suggests the disease is inherited, although no hereditary pattern is known to exist in the majority of ALS cases. Only about 5-10 percent cases, are said to be genetic or inherited factor. In those families, there is a 50 percent chance the offspring will have the disease. "Guamanian" is the type of ALS that was observed and linked to Guam and the Trust Territories of the Pacific in the 1950s during World War II.ALS can also be defined as "Lou Gehrig's Disease". In the United States, ALS is often referred to that title because of New York Yankees' baseball star Lou Gehrig, who was diagnosed with ALS in the 1930s. Other famous individuals with the serious illness were Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Sesame Street creator Jon Stone, actor David Niven, boxing champ Ezzard Charles, pro football player Glenn Montgomery and New York Senator Jacob Javits.It may take several months to know for sure that someone has ALS. The illness can cause symptoms similar to other diseases that affect nerves and muscles, including Parkinson's disease and stroke. A doctor will examine the patient and do special tests to see if it might be one of those disorders. (It is like using the process of elimination to figure out the answer to a multiple-choice question on a test.) One of the tests, an electromyogram, or EMG, can show that muscles are not working because of damaged nerves. Other tests include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood, and urine evaluations. Sometimes a muscle or nerve biopsy is needed. A biopsy is when the doctor takes a tiny sample of tissue from the body to study under a microscope. Examining this tissue can help the doctor figure out what is exactly causing these symptoms.According to the ALS Association, the incidence of ALS is about 2 per 100,000 population. Based on the 2000 U.S. Census, some 5600 people in the U.S are newly diagnosed each year. Most people who develop Lou Gehrig's disease are adults ranging in ages 40 to 70 years. Although this disease can strike anyone, it is very uncommon among adults and extremely rare in children. There have, however, been many cases of the disease attacking persons in their...

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