What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. The disease causes breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. “A” means no, “Myo” means muscle, and “Trophic” means nourishment – “No muscle nourishment.” When a muscle loses nourishment, it “atrophies” or wastes away. “Lateral” identifies the area of a person’s spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells are located. As the area degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening (“sclerosis”).

What happens with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

In the human body motor neurons extend from the brain to the spinal cord, then from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The ongoing deterioration of the motor neurons in ALS will eventually lead to the demise of nerves to the muscles. When a motor neuron dies, the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement. As voluntary muscle action decreases, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move, and breathe. The motor nerves affected when you have ALS will eventually inhibit voluntary movements and muscle control. Examples of voluntary movements are reaching for the remote control or kicking a ball.

Are there different types?

In fact, there are two different types of ALS, sporadic and familial. Sporadic is the most common form in the U.S. and accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. It can affect anyone, anywhere. Familial ALS accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases in the U.S, is inherited. In a susceptible family, there is a 50% chance each offspring will inherit the gene mutation and may develop the disease. French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in 1869 discovered ALS in 1869.

Current Outlook

Advances in technology have brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding this disease. Although currently, we have no cure for ALS there are ongoing studies all over the world and we are hopeful that effective treatments and cures for ALS will be forthcoming. Scientists have made significant progress in learning more about this disease. For instance, we have included two sites our group members have found to be to be informative regarding the progress of research: ALSUntangled and ALS News Today. In addition, we know that technology is helping to improve the quality of life for people with ALS.

PALS participation in support groups or attending ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic’s has been proven to increase the quality of life. Certified Multidisciplinary ALS Clinics offer a national standard of best-practice care to help manage the symptoms of the disease and assist people living with ALS. We feel that a primary goal is to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible. According to the American Academy of Neurology’s Practice Paramater Update, we found studies that show participation in a multidisciplinary ALS clinic may prolong survival and improve quality of life.

In accordance with ALSA standards Providence Healthcare also treats ALS patients in the newly formed PMG-ALS Clinic at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital here in Spokane. We are currently working toward ALSA Certification. In fact, the process should be complete by the spring of 2021.

Specifically, The Steve Gleason Institute for Neuroscience with WSU is a clinical research and care unit focused on ALS here in Spokane is set-up to assist with many aspects of ALS care and treatment.

Who is affected by ALS?

ALS usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70. Recent estimates indicate that there are more than 20,000 Americans with the disease (although this number will fluctuate). For unknown reasons, military veterans are approximately twice as likely as non-military to be diagnosed with this disease.

Who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

ALSSO has included this list of notable individuals diagnosed with ALS (PALS) to further your ability to research the disease and its effect on people. PALS include baseball great Lou Gehrig, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Toto bassist Mike Porcaro, Senator Jacob Javits, actor David Niven, “Sesame Street” creator Jon Stone, boxing champion Ezzard Charles, NBA Hall of Fame basketball player George Yardley, golf caddie Bruce Edwards, musician Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter), photographer Eddie Adams, entertainer Dennis Day, jazz musician Charles Mingus, former vice president of the United States Henry A. Wallace, U.S. Army General Maxwell Taylor, and NFL football players Steve Gleason, O.J. Brigance and Tim Shaw.

ALSSO for local help

Please allow ALSSO to assist you with any needs you may have as you battle this disease.

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