The Deadly Disease

May 12, 2010
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Does anyone really know what Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis really is? What about ALS? Lou Gehrig’s disease? Well, did you know they are all the same thing? ALS is a disease that has ruined many people’s lives. I am going to say what it is, Symptoms, Facts, Transportation and Mobility.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. “A” means no or negative, “Myo” refers to muscle and “Trophic” means nourishment. “No muscle nourishment” comes from the ALS Association website ( The ALS Association states…As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fiber that normally result in muscle movement. As ALS progresses, the limbs begin to look thinner as the muscles become smaller, the ALSA states.
Some may want to know what some of the symptoms are…some times people that have onset ALS may think they have an illness. On a regular basis people have muscle weakness in their hands, legs, muscles of speech, breathing or swallowing. They might twitch, have cramping of muscles, impairment using their arms and legs or thick speech. Muscle weakness is an initial sign in ALS occurring in approximately 60% of patients according to the ALSA. Since ALS attacks motor neurons the sense of sight, touch, hearing, etc. are not affected. For most people muscles of the eyes and bladder are not affected according the ALSA. But some people want to know the facts about the disease.
ALS is not a contagious disease. Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about 2-5 years from the time of diagnosis, this disease if variable and many people live with quality for 5 years and more. More than half of all patients live more than 3 years after diagnosis. ALS can strike anyone. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial or ethnic boundaries, as the ALSA website states. In 1991 a team of ALS association funded researchers linked familial ALS to chromosome 21. In 1993 the research team indentified a defective SOD1 gene on chromosome 21, this is responsible for many cases of ALS. There can be big costs for medical care, the equipment and home nurses later in the disease. People want to know if their speech will get impaired.
ALS affects the speech and communication because the tongue and lips are muscles that need to move to talk. Some people get computers that talk for them and some people get special devices made just for them that help them say what they want. While they can still move their hands some people get trackballs, eye tracking, head mouse, joysticks and touch screens to help them to go to what they want on the computer. There are ergonomic keyboards, keyless keyboards, and onscreen keyboards that help them type what they want to say. But what about getting around?
Some people that can’t get around but want to can get help moving with special help. Some of the special help is Hoyer lifts, wheelchairs, scooters, canes, walkers and people help them move. Some of the other special transfers are getting on the toilet, getting in the bathtub and getting into cars. Some people get vans that have ramps in them, ride the bus or ride the wheelchair to their destination. Some support that help people with ALS are leg braces, head and neck support and hand support. But that’s not all I can say about the disease.
I have told you some about what it is Symptoms, Facts, Transportation and Mobility. But there is much more to know about ALS that I can’t fit into this report. ALS is a disease that has ruined many people’s lives including mine. I thank the ALSA, Melissa Abramovitz, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association ALS division for all the great things they have in their websites and books. Next time you think about this report, I want you to remember that life is not all fun and games. Some times it gets real serious real fast.

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