ALS Facts


What is ALS?

ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects nerve cells in both the spinal cord and brain. This causes motor neurons to degenerate and eventually die, leading to muscle paralysis.

What causes ALS?

There is currently no known cause for the disease.

Is ALS a rare disease?

It is more common than you might expect. About 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed with ALS each year and it is estimated that as many as 30 ,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. In fact, ALS is as common as multiple sclerosis.

Who gets ALS?

ALS can happen to anyone. It most commonly occurs in men and women between the ages of 35 and 70, but people of  any age, race, ethnicity, location or income group can get ALS.

What are the symptoms of ALS?

Early signs of ALS can include muscle weakness, stiffness and cramps, tripping, dropping things, abnormal fatigue of the arms and/or legs, twitches, slurred speech and uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. Later signs include paralysis of the arms, legs, and trunk muscles, as well as the muscles that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing, and breathing.

Does ALS affect a person’s mind?

No. The vast majority of ALS patients remain sharp despite the progressive deterioration of their bodies.

How long do people with ALS survive?

The average life expectancy is two to five years.

Can ALS be cured?

No, there is no known cure at this time. However, because of advances in research and medical care, many ALS patients are living longer, more productive lives.

What progress had been made to treat ALS?

Rilutek®, the first treatment to alter the course of ALS, was approved by the FDA in late 1995.
This antiglutamate drug was shown scientifically to prolong the life of persons with ALS by at least a few months. More recent studies suggest Rilutek® slows the progress of ALS, allowing the patient more time in the higher functioning states when their function is less affected by ALS.