What Is ALS?

ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide, and people of all races and ethnic backgrounds are affected.

ALS is short for, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Maladie de Charcot) is a progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement.

Between 1 to 2 people per 100,000 develop ALS each year. ALS most commonly strikes people between 40 and 60 years of age, but younger and older people can also develop the disease.

Scientists have not found a definitive cause for ALS and the onset of the disease can be linked to a variety of risk factors. It is believed that one or more of the following factors are responsible for the majority of ALS cases. Researchers suspect a virus, exposure to neurotoxins or heavy metals, DNA defects, immune system abnormalities, and enzyme abnormalities as the leading causes of the disease.

The onset of ALS may be so subtle that the symptoms are frequently overlooked. The earliest symptoms may include twitching, cramping, or stiffness of muscles; muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg, and/or slurred and nasal speech.

Men are affected slightly more often than women.

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