ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous baseball player who had the condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between 14,500 and 15,000 people in the United States (U.S.) had ALS in 2016, with around 5,000 people being diagnosed annually. Worldwide, it is estimated to affect between 2 and 5 people in every 100,000. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time. Currently, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to stop or reverse, the progression of the disease.
Symptoms of ALS include:
- difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- muscle twitches in the arm, leg, shoulder, or tongue
- muscle cramps
- slurred and nasal speech
- tight and stiff muscles
- muscle weakness affecting an arm, a leg, neck or diaphragm.