What Is ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease)?
Through the power of social media, the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” has brought massive attention to an often times overlooked but devastating disease. Understanding ALS and increasing its awareness can be just as invaluable as donations towards finding a cure.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It affects the neurons which control voluntary movements and is the most common of the five motor neuron diseases.
The top image shows a normal neuron and muscle interface alongside an afflicted neuron. Nerve degeneration and restricted production of the neurotransmitter Dopamine causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to lose their connection to muscle fibers throughout the body. When muscles can no longer be stimulated, they become progressively weaker and inactive.
See more images of the Neuromuscular Junction
This debilitating disease is characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching, spasticity, difficulty speaking (dysarthria), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and difficulty breathing (dyspnea).
ALS does not affect involuntary muscles (such as the heart or smooth muscles), a person’s senses (taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing), or their ability to think. Since there is no cure, most treatment can only slow down the progression of the disease and provide supportive care for the individual.
Learn more by visiting the ALS Association: www.alsa.org
Images above © Science Source