ALS is a progressive neurogenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. About 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed per year and since 90 percent of cases occur with no family history, it’s important to learn about ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and understand its symptoms. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player in the 1930s who brought national attention to the disease after it ended his career.
A few years ago, the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept social media gave new focus to ALS. More than 17 million people participated in the challenge to raise awareness and encourage donations. However, because it’s difficult to diagnose, many don’t understand the disease. Here we help identify symptoms, treatments and ways you can help people affected with ALS.
In a healthy body, motor neurons stimulate muscles to contract, but ALS kills these motor neutrons. This causes progressive loss of muscle control including the ability to speak, swallow, walk, grasp object, move and even breathe. Unfortunately, the loss of muscle movement eventually leads to death commonly within two to five years of diagnosis.
People between the ages of 40 and 70 are most affected by ALS, and for unknown reasons, military personnel are twice as likely to develop ALS. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms usually start in the hands or feet then move to other parts of the body. Early signs and symptoms include:
Difficulty walking or doing your normal daily activities
Tripping and falling
Weakness in your leg, feet or ankles
Hand weakness or clumsiness
Slurred speech or trouble swallowing
Muscle cramps and twitching in your arms, shoulders and tongue
Difficulty holding your head up or keeping good posture
There is no single test or procedure to diagnose ALS, so most often it’s determined by ruling out other diseases.
Although doctors are learning more about the disease, there is currently no cure. However, there are four drugs approved by the U.S. FDA to help control symptoms and slow the progression. The ALS Association funds global research to uncover new treatments and ultimately a cure. Donor dollars have contributed to five new genes being discovered in the past two years, 150 active research projects and nine global research collaborations. The Association also states, “Thanks to the donations raised during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we are now spending three times more than on ALS research than before summer 2014.”
How You Can Get Involved
The Northern Ohio Chapter of the ALS Association organizes several fundraisers including the Walk to Defeat ALS with events in Cleveland and Akron. You can form a team or join an existing one. If you don’t want to walk, there are many volunteer opportunities.
Community Care Ambulance provides information on our website about health and wellness issues that affect the communities we serve in Northeastern Ohio. It’s part of our community outreach that also includes free health screenings. We are proud to serve Northeastern Ohio through healthcare services including emergency and non-emergency services, disaster response, communications and dispatching. If you have any questions, please contact us at 440-992-7302 or via our contact form.