What Is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease – is a progressive neuromuscular illness. In ALS, there’s a gradual, continuing degeneration of motor nerve cells in the brain (upper motor neurons) and spinal cord (lower motor neuron).
When motor neurons can no longer send impulses to muscles, they begin to waste away (atrophy), causing increased muscle weakness and paralysis.
Currently, no cure exists for the disease, though patients treated at Johns Hopkins Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic have tapped into ways to keep the quality of life as high as possible. With clinical trials and aggressive ALS research, the hope is in the science.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis does not impair a person's intellectual reasoning; vision; hearing; or sense of taste, smell and touch. In most cases, ALS does not affect a person's sexual, bowel or bladder abilities. ALS is often referred to as a syndrome because the disease can assume different patterns of onset and intensity. Loss of muscle function, however, characterizes all cases.
ALS occurs rarely and spontaneously. To date, except in strongly genetic forms of the disease, the cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis remains a mystery. And though a great deal is known about ALS biology, how it starts in the body also isn’t clear.