Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons, among the largest of all nerve cells, reach from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body with connections to the brain. When they die, as with ALS, the ability of the brain to start and control muscle movement dies with them. With all voluntary muscle affected, patients in the later stages are totally paralyzed; yet, through it all, their minds usually remain unaffected.
ALS is one of the most devastating disorders that affect the function of nerves and muscles. About 5,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year. Most who have the disease are between the ages of 40 and 70. Half of all patients live at least 3 years or more after diagnosis. Twenty percent live 5 years or more, and up to ten percent will survive more than 10 years.