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Amyotrophic Later Sclerosis

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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease)
Dustin M. Sumner
ITT- Technical Institute of Technology

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When 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.
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. There are several research studies – past and present –investigating possible risk factors that may be associated with ALS. More work is needed to conclusively determine what genetics and/or environment factors contribute to developing ALS.
The rate at which ALS progresses can be quite variable from one person to another. Although the mean survival time with ALS is three to five years, many people live five, 10 or more years. Symptoms can begin in the muscles that control speech and swallowing or in the hands, arms, legs, or feet. Not all...

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