What is ALS, and What Does it Do to the Body?

What is ALS, and What Does it Do to the Body?

What is ALS?

ALS. Three powerful letters that, upon hearing, can change a person’s life instantly. You may have heard it called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous Yankee player who was diagnosed with it. Maybe you first learned about ALS because of Stephen Hawking, or perhaps a close friend or beloved family member was recently diagnosed with ALS.  

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a fatal motor neuron disease that targets nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. 

ALS often begins with muscle twitching and/or weakness in a limb, symptoms that are easy for the average person to shrug off. However, as the disease progresses, ALS affects control of the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. 

The cause of ALS is unknown. Scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some and not others, which is why the mission of Augie’s Quest to raise critical funds and awareness to advance cutting-edge research, fast-track effective treatments, and ultimately, find a cure for ALS is so urgent.

What Does ALS Do to the Body?

ALS is not experienced in the same way, and the disease progression varies greatly among all those diagnosed. Most people live 3-5 years after their first signs of disease.

  • Many with ALS first feel muscle cramps, spasms or twitching in one of their arms or legs. 
  • About 25 percent of people with ALS first have trouble talking clearly and slur their words. This form of the disease is called bulbar-onset ALS. 
  • As the disease progresses, many muscles weaken and start to stiffen and breathing may become affected. 
  • Depending on the progression of the disease, a feeding tube may be recommended to help meet nutritional needs.
  • In the late stages of ALS, a person’s muscles become paralyzed, and they may lose the ability to move and speak. Many people with ALS require a wheelchair to move around. Some may communicate through assistive technology devices. 
  • If someone with ALS has trouble breathing, they may choose invasive ventilation to help keep them alive. 
  • More often than not, those in the late stages of ALS are cared for at home or in hospice. 

ALS is devastating to the function of nerves and muscles. However, ALS does not affect the five senses. In most cases, cognitive function, including learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving and decision making, are not affected by ALS. 

Currently, there is no cure for ALS. But we know that ALS is a disease we can tackle, a problem we can solve. Because ALS is curable; it’s  just underfunded. 

Augie’s Quest to Cure ALS is dedicated to changing the experience of people living with ALS. Today, there is real hope, like never before. With Augie’s Quest, ALS doesn’t stand a fighting chance. Support our Quest to find a cure by making a donation.