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What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive and degenerative neurological disease of the nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. In ALS, the motor neurons deteriorate leading to muscle weakness, paralysis, atrophy and often spasticity. As this happens, the muscle tissues waste away because no movement is being stimulated. Other nerve cells, such as sensory neurons that bring information from sense organs to the brain, remain healthy. The average life span post-diagnosis is two to five years. There is no cure.


Anyone can get ALS, although it’s most common in men between the ages of 40 to 70, especially if they were professional athletes or served in the military. It affects people of all ages, races and ethnicities.

Who gets ALS?


In the United States, the disease is usually called Lou Gehrig's Disease or ALS. Canada, South America, Belgium, Netherlands, and Israel also use the name "ALS". In France, ALS is known as Maladie de Charcot (Charcot’s Disease); and in the United Kingdom, Australia, and parts of Europe, ALS is referenced as motor neurone disease, or MND.

Are there other names for ALS?


In the United States, someone is diagnosed with ALS every ninety minutes, with about 5,600 diagnosed each year. "The incidence of ALS is close to that of multiple sclerosis and four times that of muscular dystrophy." ALS is considered an orphan disease because it affects a small percentage of the general population.

Is ALS common?



Currently, there is no effective therapeutic approved for use by the FDA that has been identified to stop the disease's progression or prevent onset. Both Rilutek and Radiclava are drugs that have been approved for use in the treatment of ALS, however both only offer a very small effect, which, in the case of Rilutek, has usually been described as a three-month life extension.

Is there a treatment or cure?



ALS is an abbreviation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This means:

Amyotrophic: muscles have lost their nourishment
Lateral: the sides of the spinal cord
Sclerosis: the part of the spinal cord that is affected by the disease develops hardened, scarred tissue

It's also known in some countries as MND, or motor neuron disease.

What does ALS stand for?


The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended as verified medical information or advice.