You’ve heard about the challenge. Do you know what ALS is?

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With the #ALSIceBucketChallenge snowballing in popularity, we’re willing to bet that you’ve seen someone raise awareness of the disease by pouring ice-cold water on their head. You might have even participated in this challenge yourself. But do you know what ALS is or how many people this disease affects each year?  Let us and our friends at The ALS Association help you out. 

What is ALS?

Approximately 5,600 people are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, each year. According to The ALS Association, ALS “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.” 

As nerves begin and continue to degenerate it eventually leads to their death and the brain’s ability to control voluntary muscle movement is lost. When muscles no longer work, they start to shrink.  

Early signs of ALS can look different for different people. Some signs include muscle weakness in arms and legs, twitching and cramping of muscles, trouble swallowing or breathing. Patients in advanced stages of this disease may become completely paralyzed. Because ALS only reduces the use of voluntary movement, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are not affected. 

The average life expectancy for someone affected by ALS can vary greatly. On average, someone diagnosed with ALS will live 2-5 years after the onset of symptoms.  However, 

  • 20% live five years or more
  • 10% live more than ten years
  • 5% live 20 years

Who does ALS affect?

According to the ALS CARE database:

  • 60% of the people with ALS are men
  • 93% of patients are Caucasian 
  • ALS is diagnosed the most in people ages 40-70
  • Military veterans deployed during Gulf War twice as likely to develop ALS

To learn more, visit www.als.org.