Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS for short and also widely called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is disease which causes the death of neurons 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 due to the heredity factor. The other cases are due to other factors, and researchers are busy trying to pinpoint precisely what causes this disease to occur.
Risk factors that have been discovered already include age as most cases start to occur between the ages of 40-60, and gender, because slightly more women than men will have ALS before age 65 (after age 70, sex does not factor into the issue since it becomes more balanced between men and women). Environmental factors like smoking, exposure to environmental toxins and service in the military are also being studied. It’s not clear why more veterans get ALS than those who have done no military service, but researchers are looking into continual exertion, exposure to metals and chemicals and traumatic accidents 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 such as having too much glutimate that has been proven to be toxic to cells, it might be a disorganized immune response or it could be a protein mishandling issue. This is where research is going at the present time in an attempt to narrow down the way the 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, difficulty swallowing and muscle cramps. Regrettably, those who have ALS have between two and four years before it is going to claim them, although 10 percent of individuals do live ten years ago diagnosis. Most people who have ALS die from respiratory failure and a few will acquire dementia close to the end also. This is a dreadful disease, one which has no cure, but one in which teams of researchers are trying to understand.