What Is ALS?

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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS for short and also widely called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is disease that leads to the death of nerves throughout the body that control voluntary muscles. Although ALS may start small, eventually the patient will have difficulty speaking, swallowing and ultimately, breathing.

Between 5 and 10 percent of ALS cases are due to heredity. If a parent has the disease, the offspring are 50% more likely to get it as well as a result of heredity element. All other cases are due to other factors, and researchers are busy trying to pinpoint exactly what causes this disease to occur.

Risk factors that were found out already include age as most cases start to occur between the ages of 40-60, and sex, because slightly more women than men will have ALS before age 65 (after age 70, sex doesn’t factor into the issue as it becomes more balanced between men and women). Environmental factors like smoking, exposure to environmental toxins and support in the military are also being studied. It’s not clear why more specialists get ALS than those who have completed no military service, but researchers are looking into continual exertion, exposure to metals and compounds and traumatic injuries as other elements that contribute to ALS.

What exactly causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to attack an otherwise healthy person? It might be a gene mutation, it could be a chemical imbalance like having too much glutimate that has been proven to be toxic to cells, it could be a disorganized immune response or it could be a protein mishandling issue. This is where research is going at the moment in an attempt to narrow down how a person become affected and what we can do to prevent this terrible disease.

Some early signs of ALS include difficulty walking, falling, tripping, hand fatigue, clumsiness, slurred speech, trouble swallowing and muscular cramps. Sadly, those who have ALS have between two and four years earlier it will claim them, although 10% of patients do live ten years past diagnosis. Most people who have ALS die from respiratory failure and a few will acquire dementia close to the end as well. This is a horrible disease, one that has no cure, but one in which groups of researchers are attempting to understand.

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