What is ALS?


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a group of rare neurological diseases involving the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement (chewing, walking, talking). ALS symptoms do worsen over time. There is no cure for ALS and there is no effective treatment to stop, or reverse the progression of the disease.



Who is impacted?


  • ALS is a common neuromuscular disease worldwide. It affects people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Several potential risk factors exist for ALS including:
    • Age (Disease can occur at any age, but symptoms develop mostly during ages 55 and 75)
    • Male Gender
    • Race and ethnicity (Caucasians and non-Hispanics are most likely to develop the disease)
  • Majority of ALS cases ( >90%) are considered sporadic, meaning the disease occurs randomly with no clear associated risk factor or no family history.
  • Remaining 5 to 10% of the ALS cases are familial meaning that the individual inherits the disease from his or her parents



How is ALS diagnosed?


  • ALS is typically diagnosed based on a thorough history and medical examination along with other tests to rule out other diseases. The presence of upper and lower motor neuron symptoms strongly suggest the presence of the disease. Neurologic examinations are done to determine the progression of the disease.
  • Additional testing:
    • Muscle and imaging tests
    • Laboratory tests
    • Tests for other diseases and disorders



How is ALS treated?


  • As mentioned above, there is no cure for ALS, but there are treatments that can help control symptoms, prevent unnecessary complications, and make living with the disease easier.
    • ALS is treated through:
      • Medications
        • There are currently only two FDA approved medications to treat ALS: riluzole (Rilutek) and edaravone (Radicava). Riluzole works by reducing damage to motor neurons which can prolong survival by a few months, especially in the bulbar form of the disease but it does not reverse the damage already caused. Edaravone has been shown to slow the decline of daily functioning in people with ALS.
      • Physical therapy
      • Speech therapy
      • Nutritional support
      • Breathing support