Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – is a degenerative disease that can effect motor neurons in the central or peripheral nervous system. This leads to a steady loss in motor skills -including coordination and movement of skeletal muscles. Sometimes dementia can form even if it isn’t a common symptom. Eventually, death will occur when the degeneration of motor neurons begins to affect basic functions such as breathing, swallowing, and heart rate (1). Unfortunately ALS is an incurable disease with no known cause or treatment at this point in time.Furthermore, there are currently no known indicators for ALS onset. In fact, diagnosis of ALS often is the result of ticking off what other diseases it could be.
Which brings up the point: why is so little known about ALS?
This question is especially frustrating considering the harsh reality of the disease. And like with most diseases the answer is complex and multifaceted. The matter of the underlying causes of ALS isn’t necessarily just about what can lead to ALS – but what doesn’t contribute to ALS. Numerous studies have linked glutaminergic excitoxicity, genetics, immune dysfunction, misfolding of proteins, environmental toxins, and even military service to the development of ALS (2). The disease is also known to occur more frequently in men. So it’s quite difficult to pinpoint any given cause to the development of ALS let alone find an effective treatment. However, that doesn’t mean that a cure or treatment for ALS can’t be achieved.
If you wish to donate to ALS research you can give any amount to the ALS Association (no Ice Bucket Challenge required).