Facts About ALS and MND
Last Updated: March 25th, 2010
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease that initially weakens, and eventually destroys motor neurons.
Motor neurons are essential for the transmission of signals between the brain and skeletal muscles. As these pathways deteriorate so does a patients ability to control muscles.
In most cases, ALS does not affect cognitive abilities - the mind is often unaffected. New research shows that approximately one third of ALS patients will have some form of cognitive impairment, but this impairment does not affect survival.
Regardless of what part of the body is first affected by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), muscle weakness and atrophy always progresses. The speed of progression and severity of intial affects differs from individual to indvidual, but the affects are fatal (90% of patients die within 3-5 years of symptoms).
Individuals affected by ALS have increased problems with mobility, swallowing, speaking, and/or forming words.
As the disease progresses to the later stages individuals will have difficulty breathing (due to a weakened respiratory system). Ventilation support can reduce problems associated with breathing, and has in some cases prolonged survival, however, ventililators do not affect the progression of ALS.
ALS is difficult to diagnose because there is not one test which provides a definitive diagnosis. While the presence of upper and lower motor neuron degeneration is suggestive of ALS, a diagnosis cannot be based on this evidence alone. Instead, a doctor (neurologist) upon presentation of ALS symptoms must run a series of tests to eliminate other diseases with similar symptoms.
90% of people with ALS die from respiratory failure within three to five years from the onset of symptoms. Approximately 5% percent of individuals with ALS will survive for more than 10 years.
At the moment, there is no cure for ALS, diagnosis is difficult, and the causes of ALS are not completely understood.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Facts
International ALS Facts
United Kingdom ALS Facts
American ALS Facts
Canadian ALS Facts
Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Facts
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