Article: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Information Page

What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive, fatal neurological disease affecting as many as 20,000 Americans with 5,000 new cases occurring in the United States each year. The disorder belongs to a class of disorders known as motor neuron diseases. ALS occurs when specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary movement gradually degenerate. The loss of these motor neurons causes the muscles under their control to weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. ALS manifests itself in different ways, depending on which muscles weaken first. Symptoms may include tripping and falling, loss of motor control in hands and arms, difficulty speaking, swallowing and/or breathing, persistent fatigue, and twitching and cramping, sometimes quite severely. ALS strikes in mid-life. Men are about one-and-a-half times more likely to have the disease as women.

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for ALS; nor is there a proven therapy that will prevent or reverse the course of the disorder. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved riluzole, the first drug that has been shown to prolong the survival of ALS patients. Patients may also receive supportive treatments that address some of their symptoms.

What is the prognosis?

ALS is usually fatal within five years after diagnosis.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports a broad range of studies aimed at discovering the cause(s) of ALS, finding better treatments, and ultimately preventing and curing the disorder.

Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.


ALS Association (ALSA)
27001 Agoura Road
Suite 150
Calabasas Hills, CA   91301-5104
Tel: 818-880-9007 800-782-4747
Fax: 818-880-9006

Les Turner ALS Foundation
8142 North Lawndale Avenue
Skokie, IL   60076
Tel: 888-ALS-1107 847-679-3311
Fax: 847-679-9109

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ   85718-3208
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

Project ALS
511 Avenue of the Americas
Suite #341
New York, NY   10011
Tel: 212-969-0329 800-603-0270
Fax: 212-337-9915

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Cache Date: December 16, 2004