Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)/Lou Gehrig's Disease

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, neurological disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain (upper motor neurons) and spinal cord (lower motor neurons) that control voluntary muscle movement. Motor neurons begin to degenerate and stop sending messages to muscles. With ALS, muscles gradually waste away and the brain is unable to initiate and control voluntary movements like chewing, walking, breathing and talking. Symptoms get worse over time and some individuals eventually can't breathe on their own. Most cases of ALS happen with no known cause, while a small percentage of cases are inherited. Currently, there is no cure for ALS.
Risk factors
  • Heredity
  • Gene mutations
  • Smoking
  • Military service
Diagnosis is difficult early on because ALS may mimic several other neurological diseases. Tests to rule out other conditions may include:
  • Electromyogram (EMG)
  • Nerve conduction study
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Spinal tap
  • Muscle biopsy
Treatments can’t reverse the damage of ALS, but they can slow the progression of symptoms, prevent complications and make you more comfortable and independent. There is no cure for ALS, and eventually the disease is fatal. 
  • ALS affects about 30,000 Americans and 5,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
  • Occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
  • 5-10% of all ALS cases are familial.
  • Military veterans are 1.5-2x more likely to develop ALS.
  • Most common in people 45-60 years old. 
  • Responsible for 5 of every 100,000 deaths in people aged 20 or older.
ALS hub ribbon

  • "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Information Page." Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) | National of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.     Web. 22 Apr. 2017.
  • "National Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Registry." CDC - National Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.
  • Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Information for Healthcare Professionals."Information for Healthcare Professionals. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.
  • Day, Jo Ann. "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Clinic." The Johns Hopkins Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease) Clinic. Johns Hopkins Health System, 05 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.
  • "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis." Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.



NOTE: The information on this page and any information found on healtheo360 is not a substitution for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, CALL 911 immediately. See additional information about our Terms & Conditions.