A person with ALS may live for about two to five years from the time of diagnosis
On average, a person with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) may live for about two to five years from the time of diagnosis. This may vary as studies have shown that many people may live for five years or more. More than half of the people with ALS live for more than three years from the time of diagnosis.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a progressive and fatal disease, attacking the cells in the nervous system (neurons) that control voluntary movement. Jean-Martin Charcot, a French neurologist, discovered the disease in 1869.
The nerve cells that control the voluntary movement are called motor neurons. This disease affects and kills motor neurons over time. Neuronal death results in the inability of the brain to control the muscles of the body. This leads to a progressive decline in the ability to talk, write, pick up or hold things, swallow, and ultimately breathe (processes controlled by the muscle).
Presently there is no cure for ALS. People with this disease have a shortened lifespan and may die within a few years of diagnosis. ALS most commonly affects whites, males, and people over the age of 60 years.
How does a person get ALS?
ALS has two types:
- Sporadic ALS (SALS)
- Familial ALS (FALS).
Sporadic ALS (SALS) is the most common form of the disease in the United States. It accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases of ALS. The cause of sporadic ALS is unknown. Various factors implicated in the causation of ALS are:
- Glutamate: built up of a substance called glutamate damages the nerve cells.
- Exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., in soldiers during the war)
- Exposure to heavy metals like lead
- Oxidative stress (substances released during the wear and tear of the body damage the body if accumulated over long time)
- Immunity problems: The body makes proteins and mounts an attack against the proteins of its own.
Familial ALS or (FALS) is seen in 5 to 10% of all ALS cases in America. People with familial ALS inherit the disease through genes. In the families with ALS, there is a 50% chance each child will inherit the gene carrying the disease and may develop ALS.
Can ALS be prevented?
There is no definitive prevention method for ALS. People with ALS, however, may participate in clinical trials, the National ALS Registry and the National ALS Biorepository. Through their participation, they can help researchers learn about the likely causes and risk factors for ALS.
Can ALS be cured?
There is no cure available for ALS presently. The disease essentially has a progressive and fatal course. Once the disease process begins there is a continuous decline in the ability to talk, write, pick up or hold things, swallow, and ultimately breathe. Research is being actively done the world over to develop more treatment options and a definite cure for ALS.
Currently, four drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS:
Although these drugs cannot cure ALS, they can help improve a person’s life expectancy and quality of life.
People with ALS may experience a better quality of life by seeking care in multidisciplinary ALS clinics. These clinics provide specialty care to people living with ALS. Care provided through the multidisciplinary ALS clinics may also increase the lifespan of people living with the disease.
Additionally, participating in support groups for ALS can also help in improving the quality of life for ALS patients.
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MS (Multiple Sclerosis) vs. ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Differences and SimilaritiesALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease) and MS (multiple sclerosis) are both diseases of the nervous system (neurodegenerative). ALS is a disease in which the nerve cells in the body are attacked by the immune system, although it's not considered an autoimmune disease by some scientists. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the insulated covering of the nerves (myelin sheath) in the CNS (central nervous system) degenerate, or deteriorate.
Scientists don't know the exact cause of either problem. However, they have discovered that mutations in the gene that produces the SOD1 enzyme were associated with some cases of familial ALS. Scientists also theorize that multiple sclerosis may be caused by infection or vitamin D deficiency. ALS occurs between 50-70 years of age (the average age of occurrence ALS is 55), and mostly affects men. While MS occurs between 20-60 years of age, and mostly affects women. About 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and an average of 5,000 new diagnoses per year (that's about 15 new cases per week). Worldwide, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, with about 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year (that's about 200 new diagnoses per week).
Some of the signs and symptoms of both diseases include muscle weakness, muscle spasms, problems walking, fatigue, slurred speech, and problems swallowing. ALS signs and symptoms that are different from MS include problems holding the head upright, clumsiness, muscle cramps and twitches, problems holding objects, and uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. MS signs and symptoms that are different from ALS include vision problems, vertigo and balance problems, sexual problems, memory problems, depression, mood swings, and digestive problems.
There is no cure for either disease, however the prognosis and life expectancy are different. Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal condition, while ALS progresses rapidly and leads to death.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Symptoms, Causes, Life ExpectancyAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease) is a neurological disease that progresses rapidly. The disease attacks the nerve cells responsible for the control of voluntary muscles. Early symptoms include cramping, twitching, or stiffness of the muscles; slurred nasal speech; difficulty swallowing or chewing, and muscle weakness in an arm or leg. Currently, the cause of ALS is not known. ALS is a fatal disease. No cure has been found for ALS, however, the drug riluzole (Rilutek) is FDA approved, and this drug reduces the damage to motor neurons by decreasing the release of glutamate.
MS QuizMultiple Sclerosis is a debilitating neurological condition. Take the MS Quiz to test your knowledge of the causes, symptoms, risks and treatments.
Famous Faces of MSLearn about celebrities, such as Montel Williams and Jack Osbourne, who are living with multiple sclerosis.
What Is Usually the First Sign of ALS?The earliest signs of neuromuscular disorder ankylosing spondylitis (ALS) usually include muscle weakness or stiffness (spasticity). Many people with ALS notice the first signs of the disease in the hand or arm as they find it difficult to perform simple tasks such as turning a key in a lock, buttoning a shirt, combing their hair or writing.