What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

ALS: Beyond the Basics

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that poses significant challenges to those affected. It targets motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, leading to a gradual loss of muscle control. This comprehensive overview dives into the essence of ALS, shedding light on the early signs like muscle weakness and the eventual loss of voluntary muscle action. Annually, over 5,000 individuals are diagnosed, facing an average life expectancy of 2-5 years post-diagnosis. Interestingly, only 10% of ALS cases are inherited. The community surrounding ALS, including multidisciplinary clinics, plays a vital role in extending life and enhancing quality of life for patients, emphasizing the critical need for support and advanced research in battling this disease.

Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. "A" means no or negative. "Myo" refers to muscle, and "Trophic" means nourishment-"No muscle nourishment." When a muscle has no nourishment, it "atrophies" or wastes away. "Lateral" identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening ("sclerosis") in the region.

As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look "thinner" as muscle tissue atrophies.

What is ALS image


people are diagnosed per year

2-5 Years

is the average life expectancy

Only 10%

of cases are inherited through a mutated gene

According to the American Academy of Neurology's Practice Parameter Update, studies have shown that participation in a multidisciplinary ALS clinic may prolong survival and improve quality of life.