Lou Gehrig would have gotten a great laugh at all the ‘ice bucket challenge’ and attention that took his life. The New York Yankee legend became a popular figure head for ALS after being diagnosed with the disease in 1941, just shy of 38 years old. Describing himself as the ‘luckiest man alive’ after being diagnosed with ALS, Gehrig gave his remaining years, post voluntary retirement, to bring awareness to ALS. Many people do not realize the seriousness and need to draw attention to this debilitating neurological disease and the much needed help to find a cure for the over 5,000 plus victims diagnosed annually in the U.S.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease, neurodegenerative disease
A=No. Myo = Muscle. Trophic = Nourishment
When a ‘muscle’ has no nourishment, it atrophies or wastes away. The progression and process of ALS slowly debilitates the connection between the brain and spinal cord, which work cohesively to communicate to the ‘voluntary muscles’ throughout the body. As ALS progresses, the muscle communication declines eventually resulting in paralysis. Muscle ‘atrophy’ and become smaller, weaker as the nutrition to the muscles declines.
“The body has many kinds of nerves. There are those involved in the process of thinking, memory, and of detecting sensations (such as hot/cold, sharp/dull), and others for vision, hearing, and other bodily functions. The nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle power. Examples of voluntary movements are your making the effort to reach for the phone or step off a curb; these actions are controlled by the muscles in the arms and legs.
The heart and the digestive system are also made of muscle but a different kind, and their movements are not under voluntary control. When your heart beats or a meal is digested, it all happens automatically. Therefore, the heart and digestive system are not involved in ALS. Breathing also may seem to be involuntary. Remember, though, while you cannot stop your heart, you can hold your breath – so be aware that ALS may eventually have an impact on breathing.
The heart and lungs are referred to as ‘involuntary muscles’, thus the reason why they can continue to function with ALS.
What causes ALS?
Chromosome 21 – There is a possible genetic link in defect of chromosome 21, where the condition reoccurs in 20% of families and 2% overall.
Environmental exposure may be linked to ALS
Many factors may be attributed to ALS
What treatment is available for ALS?
Currently, the FDA has approved ‘Riluzole’ to treat ALS, delaying the progression of the disease. Devices and therapy are also used to help treat ALS.
To learn more about ALS visit ALSA’s website at www.alsa.org
To take the ‘ice bucket challenge’ fill a bucket with icy, cold water, get a friend (or enemy who needs to get you back….) and have another friend/family member record you taking the challenge. Send out your recorded ice bucket challenge to all your friends via social media and challenge them (or call out individual names) to take the challenge, too! It’s ‘clean’ fun for a good cause!