What is ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease?
Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or
Motor Neurone Disease, MND in Europe, is a progressive, fatal
neurodegenerative disease that attacks the motor neurons in the
brain and spinal cord. With over 350,000 people worldwide afflicted
with ALS, the cause of the disease is still unknown. Ninety percent
of patients diagnosed with ALS die within 5 years since there is
currently no cure. The diseases itself has no prejudice – attacking
anyone despite age, ethnicity or gender.
It is marked by gradual degeneration of the nerve cells in the
central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement.
The disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy; symptoms commonly
appear in middle to late adulthood, with death in two to five years.
The cause is unknown, and there is no known cure. Most people who
develop ALS are between 40 and 70 and it is 20% more common in men
than in women. CarolAnn's mother was diagnosed at age 76. Carol's
family has just been afflicted with this disease as her cousin's
husband was just diagnosed with ALS in 2007.
ALS is one of the most devastating disorders that affects the
function of nerves and muscles. Based on US population studies, a
little over 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each
year. That's 15 new cases each day. It is estimated that as many
as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. As CarolAnn
travels and speaks with people about ALS, she's amazed at how many
people know someone who has or had ALS. These people are happy to
donate because they know the destructive nature of this disease and
they also hope for a cure someday.
Lou Gehrig, with whom ALS is most commonly associated, first brought
national and international attention to the disease back in 1939
when he abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with
ALS. However, ALS is not just Lou Gehrig's disease and it knows
no boundaries. The disease has cut short the lives of such notable
and courageous individuals as Hall of Fame pitcher, Jim "Catfish"
Hunter; actor, Michael Zaslow; creator of Sesame Street, Jon Stone;
actor, David Niven; boxing champion, Ezzard Charles; Pro Football
player, Glenn Montgomery; and Senator, Jacob Javits. In 2003 while
CarolAnn was flying her first world trip, Tom Watson's caddie was
diagnosed with ALS. The golf community rallied and raised over
$1,500,000 for ALS TDI.