Voice For Joanie

About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) affects the motor neurons connecting the brain and spinal cord. It progressively deteriorates the motor neurons reaching from the brain to the spinal cord, which eventually leads to their death. Once the neurons controlling mobility die, the brain loses the ability to control muscle movement. The progressive degeneration of ALS may leave patients completely paralyzed in its latter stages.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients suffer from lack of muscle nourishment. “Amyotrophic” literally means “no muscle nourishment” as defined in the ancient Greek language. If muscles do not obtain adequate nutrition, then it atrophies or wastes away. “Lateral” directs attention to the spinal cord areas of the afflicted patient, usually where the concentration of nerves signaling the control of muscles are located. As a result of nerve generation within the spinal cord, scarring and hardening of the tissues in the region, often referred to as “sclerosis.”

More info can be found at The University of Cincinnati Health Library

Why is it known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

Lou Gehrig, a famous baseball player in the U.S. during the 1930′s, became afflicted with ALS. He was known as baseball’s “Ironman”. Strength, agility, excellent health – Lou Gehrig had everything it took to become a baseball legend. But Lou Gehrig had something else. At the peak of his career, he was diagnosed as having Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He died at the age of 38.

Who Gets ALS

ALS is a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles. Based on U.S. population studies, a little over 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. (That's 15 new cases a day.) It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. According to the ALS CARE Database, 60% of the people with ALS in the Database are men and 93% of patients in the Database are Caucasian.

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% more common in men than in women. However with increasing age, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.

Partial text taken from ALS Connecticut Chapter

What can be done about ALS?

Medical interventions and technology have vastly improved the quality of life for people with ALS, by assisting with breathing, nutrition, mobility and communication. Proper management of symptoms, and proactive use of medical interventions and equipment, can make a positive difference in day-to-day living, and potentially may lengthen survival. The FDA-approved drug riluzole (brand name Rilutek) has been shown to slightly increase longevity.

Partial text taken from MDA