16 Fast Facts About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes the degeneration of motor neurons, eventually leading to a loss of movement and patients being unable to breathe without assistance. We’ve put together a list of fast facts about ALS with help from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

MORE: How a speech and language pathologist can help ALS patients.

  • ALS can strike at any time, but it most commonly strikes between the ages of 55 and 75.
  • It’s estimated that between 14,000 and 15,000 Americans have ALS.
  • It affects slightly more men than women.
  • Military veterans are 1 1/2 to two times more likely to develop ALS than people who haven’t served in the military.
  • Ninety percent of ALS cases are considered “sporadic,” meaning there is no clear reason for the disease’s development.
  • Five to 10 percent of ALS cases are familial and due to mutated genes.
  • The first symptoms of the disease often appear in either a hand or a leg and is referred to as “limb-onset ALS.”
  • For others, the first symptoms are speech or swallowing difficulties, called “bulbar-onset ALS.”
  • The spread of symptoms differ from patient to patient but eventually, all patients will lose the ability to move and breathe on their own.
  • ALS does not affect mental ability.
  • ALS patients burn calories faster than non-sufferers and as a result are often underweight.
  • There isn’t one test to diagnose ALS. Diagnosis is done through a variety of observations and scans.
  • There is no known cause of ALS but researchers think that it is a combination of genetics and environmental triggers.
  • Researchers are studying exposure to toxic substances, diet, and physical trauma as potential causes of the disease.
  • There is no cure or effective therapy for ALS. Patients will undergo palliative therapy to make them as comfortable as possible.
  • However, the drug Rilutek can offer patients a few extra months as the drug has been shown to slightly reduce motor neuron damage.

MORE: Explaining the progression of ALS

ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

2 comments

  1. Rushan Samarasinghe says:

    What are the real theories for the causes of ALS? I would love to offer some, after observing my father’s life

    • Hans says:

      Hi Rushan,
      I’m als a patient can you share your observations? Maybe I can change my way of life if its not to late.

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