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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

By Cecily


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.

The early symptoms of ALS are usually presented as muscle twitching and weakness in limbs. Eventually, nearly all muscles under voluntary control, including the respiratory system and digestive system are affected.

The reason why ALS occurs is unknown. The costs of treatment are high and it continues to rise as the disease progresses. The annual cost of ALS in the United States is 300 million dollars. So far, there is no cure for this fatal disease.

Facts about the name

The first word “Amyotrophic” is derived from the Greek language. “A” refers to no, “Myo” represents the muscle, and “trophic” means nourishment. Overall, “ Amyotrophic” means no nourishment in the muscle.


Each patient may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms include:

  • Limbs weakness and fatigue

  • Tripping, falling, and, dropping things

  • muscle twitching in hands, feet, arms, shoulders, and tongues

  • Uncontrollable crying and laughing

  • Slurred speech

As the disease progresses to late stages, patients will experience more severe symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty swallowing food and breathing

  • paralysis

In the both early and late stages of ALS, the pain is uncommon as ALS does not affect human senses.

How is ALS diagnosed?

  • Laboratory tests: includes blood tests and thyroid functioning tests

  • Biopsy on muscle or nerve.

  • Spinal fluid analysis: this procedure will examine the fluid withdrawn from the cerebral spinal column.

  • X-rays

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI images the soft tissues and produces a two-dimensional view of the brain and spinal cord.

Classification of ALS

Reasons for classification: As signs and symptoms of ALS vary from patient to patient, in order to make a more accurate diagnosis, classification is used.

Classical ALS: This is the most common type of ALS as two-thirds of the patients are affected by this. Both upper and lower motor neurons deteriorate in the human body.

Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS): This is the rarest form of ALS disease as only the upper motor neurons are affected. If the lower motor neurons are not affected 2 years after the diagnosis, then the disease remains a pure disease that only affects the upper motion neurons.

Progressive Bulbar Palsy (PBP): At this stage, the patients will have difficulties in speaking and eating as the lower motor neurons are affected. One-fourth of patients are suffering from these symptoms.

Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA): At this stage, only the lower motor neurons deteriorate. If the upper motor neurons are not affected within two years, then the disease remains a pure lower motor neuron disease.

Familial: This type of ALS affects more than one member of the same family.


  1. 2-5 years is the average life expectancy after diagnosis

  2. 10 percent of cases occur due to a mutated gene

  3. More than 5000 people are diagnosed per year in the United States, it affects 30,000 people in total.

  4. Every 90 minutes, someone dies because of ALS.

Risk factors

  • Heredity: According to the studies, 5 to 10 percent of people with Familial ALS have a family history.

  • Age: It is common between 40 and 60

  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop ALS than women before 65.

  • Genetics: Genetic variation is one of the causes of ALS.


researcher: cecily


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