Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease because Lou Gehrig, a famous baseball player who played for the New York Yankees had his career cut short when he died from this disease. ALS is a disease that affects the nerves and in most cases, like Lou Gehrig, results in death. (2) ALS attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling the muscles in the body, known as motor neurons. The disease is a motor neuron disease , which is a disease that gradually kills motor neurons. Motor neurons are located in the brain and spinal cord and are important communication links between the nervous system and the voluntary muscles of the body. Messages from motor neurons in the brain are sent to motor neurons in the spinal cord and from them to different muscles. In ALS, the motor neurons degenerate or die, and eventually quit sending messages to muscles. When the muscles are unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, and eventually, the brain can no longer control the muscles. (6)
ALS causes weakness and many disabilities. Eventually, all muscles controlled voluntarily are affected, and patients lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the chest wall fail, patients lose the ability to breathe without help from a breathing machine. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the first time they notice the symptoms of ALS. (5)
Unfortunately, those who have done research on ALS do not know what causes ALS, how to prevent it, or how to cure it.
Because ALS affects only motor neurons, the disease does not damage a person's mind, personality, intelligence, or memory. It also does not affect a person's ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch. (5)