Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

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3D model of brain

​Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and fatal disease, attacking neurons that control voluntary movement. These neurons die over time. The result is the gradual loss of muscle movement, speech, swallowing, and eventually, breathing. Unfortunately, people with ALS usually have a shortened lifespan and may die within a few years of diagnosis. ALS is most common in whites, males, and people over the age of 60. Almost 17,000 people are estimated to be living with ALS in the United States as of 2015.

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Key Facts

  • ALS has no cure.
  • The exact causes of ALS remain unknown.
  • ALS results in the death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord.
  • There is an increased risk of ALS in military veterans.
  • Although ALS can affect anyone, it is more common in whites, males, and people over 60 years of age.

Media

Text cloud: ALS, surveillance, progress, biorepository, registry, CDC, ATSDR, Lou Gehrig, hope, cure, treatment
ALS Attacks Brain Cells Called Neurons

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and fatal disease, attacking neurons that control voluntary movement. These neurons die over time. The result is the gradual loss of muscle movement, speech, swallowing, and eventually, breathing.

3D model of DNA strands
No One Knows Exactly What Causes ALS

The exact causes of ALS remain unknown. In 5%–10% of cases, ALS has a hereditary form, meaning it runs in families. The remaining 90% to 95% of cases have no clearly defined cause.

Make a Positive Difference: Join the ALS Registry and further ALS research
Scientists Are Looking for the Cause

The National ALS Registry and the National ALS Biorepository are currently investigating the potential causes and risk factors of the disease.

Woman in wheelchair
Getting Special Care Can Help

People with ALS usually have a shortened lifespan and may die within a few years of diagnosis. Multidisciplinary ALS clinics provide specialty care to people living with the disease. Attending ALS clinics may improve the quality and length of life of people living with ALS.

Prevention Tips

  • There is no definite method to prevent ALS.
  • However, people with ALS can participate in clinical trials, the National ALS Registry, and the National ALS Biorepository. This participation may help researchers learn about potential causes and risk factors of the disease.
  • Multidisciplinary ALS clinics provide specialty care to people living with the disease. Attending multidisciplinary ALS clinics may improve the quality and length of life of people living with ALS. You can learn more about ALS providers here.
Page last reviewed: April 30, 2021