What is ALS?

If you didn’t already know what ALS is, chances are by now you have heard of those three letters after the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went mega-viral on social media

If you didn’t already know what ALS is, chances are by now you have heard of those three letters after the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went mega-viral on social media. The challenge did a great job of raising awareness and vital research funding for a little-known disease that has no cure and devastating consequences.

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that also is referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that reach to the muscles throughout the body, called motor neurons. As the disease progresses, these motor neurons die and the brain is no longer able to control muscle movement.

The early symptoms of ALS are so slight that they are frequently overlooked and vary from person to person. They can include:

  • Muscle weakness in the hands, arms or legs
  • Weakness in the muscles that control speech, swallowing and breathing
  • Twitching and muscle cramps, especially in the hands and feet
  • Tripping or falling spells
  • Slurred speech
  • Episodes of crying or laughing
  • Difficulty lifting items, buttoning clothes or walking

Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, so it’s relatively rare. Most symptoms develop later in adulthood, usually after age 50; however, they can occur in younger people. Over time, weakness and paralysis spread to the trunk muscles of the body. This affects the ability to speak, swallow, chew and breathe.

If you’re concerned about symptoms of muscle weakness, speak with your primary care physician. If you do not have one, find a physician now or call (502) 629-1234 or (888) 4-U-NORTON/(888) 486-6786.

The ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic at Norton Healthcare specializes in the care and treatment of individuals living with ALS or primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). The clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals from the ALS Association and Norton Neuroscience Institute. Mark P. Bazant, M.D., a neurologist specializing in the care of ALS patients, directs the clinic and its operations. The goal of the clinic is to provide optimal care, support and quality of life for patients who have already been diagnosed with either ALS or PLS.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment at the clinic, call (502) 899-6782.


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