In the United States, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the legendary Yankees baseball player who died from ALS in 1941. In the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, ALS is often called Motor Neurone Disease (MND). In many countries where Spanish is spoken, it is called Esclerosis Lateral Amiotrófica (ELA).
ALS/MND is a group of related neurodegenerative diseases that cause the neurons in the brain, brain stem and spinal cord to degenerate and die, which leads to muscle weakness, paralysis, and death. Individuals affected by ALS/MND may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement, although bladder and bowel function and the muscles responsible for eye movement are usually spared until the final stages of the disease. Although the disease does not usually impair a person's mind or personality, several recent studies suggest that some people with ALS/MND may develop cognitive problems involving word fluency, decision-making, and memory.
The name amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is Greek in origin. “A” means "no" or "negative," “myo” translates to “muscle”, and “trophic” refers to “nourishment”. So, amyotrophic means “no muscle nourishment”. "Lateral" refers to the places in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening ("sclerosis") in the region.
Who Suffers from ALS/MND? They are our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, our children, best friends and those we have yet to meet. Unfortunately, as we know from personal experience, ALS can strike anyone.
ALS/MND is typically fatal within 2-5 years of diagnosis, but about 10 percent of individuals survive for 10 or more years. Every 90 minutes ALS/MND claims another life. Every time someone dies, another person is diagnosed with ALS/MND.