(ALS) Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Information
By the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Lou Gehrig's Disease
Table of Contents What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? What is the prognosis? What research is being done? Organizations Publicaciones en EspaÃ±ol
What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, waste away, and twitch. Eventually the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost. Individuals with ALS lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, individuals lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support. The disease does not affect a person's ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch, and it does not usually impair a person's thinking or other cognitive abilities. However, several recent studies suggest that a small percentage of patients may experience problems with memory or decision-making, and there is growing evidence that some may even develop a form of dementia. The cause of ALS is not known, and scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some people and not others.
What is the prognosis?
Regardless of the part of the body first affected by the disease, muscle weakness and atrophy spread to other parts of the body as the disease progresses. Individuals have increasing problems with moving, swallowing, and speaking or forming words. Eventually people with ALS will not be able to stand or walk, get in or out of bed on their own, or use their hands and arms. In later stages of the disease, individuals have difficulty breathing as the muscles of the respiratory system weaken. Although ventilation support can ease problems with breathing and prolong survival, it does not affect the progression of ALS. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms. However, about 10 percent of those individuals with ALS survive for 10 or more years. What research is being done?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also supports additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. The goals of this research are to find the cause or causes of ALS, understand the mechanisms involved in the progression of the disease, and develop effective treatments.
ALS Association (ALSA)
27001 Agoura Road
Calabasas Hills, CA 91301-5104
Tel: 818-880-9007 800-782-4747
Les Turner ALS Foundation
5550 W. Touhy Avenue
Skokie, IL 60077-3254
Tel: 888-ALS-1107 847-679-3311
Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718-3208
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-344-4863
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212-420-7382 800-603-0270
ALS Therapy Development Institute
215 First Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
Publicaciones en EspaÃ±ol
â€¢ Esclerosis Lateral Amiotrófica
Esclerosis lateral amiotróf
ica (ELA) hoja informativa/Spanish-language fact sheet on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Prepared by: Office of Communications and Public Liaison National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD 20892 Internet Citation: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/amyotrophiclateralsclerosis/amyotrophiclateralsclerosis.htm