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laurie baker

laurie baker
United States
CROWDRISING SINCE: Aug 20, 2014
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ALS affects the upper motor neurons, which are in the brain, and the lower motor neurons, which are in the spinal cord and brainstem. Upper motor neuron degeneration generally causes spasticity (tightness in a muscle), while lower motor neuron degeneration causes muscle weakness, muscle atrophy(shrinkage of muscles) and twitching. These can occur in combination in ALS, as upper and lower motor neurons are being lost at the same time.

ALS can affect people of any age, though it usually strikes in late middle age. ALS usually announces itself with persistent weakness or spasticity in an arm or leg, causing difficulty using the affected limb. Sometimes the problem originates in the muscles controlling speech or swallowing. It isn’t unusual for people to ignore such problems for some time at this stage, or to consult a physician who may be relatively unconcerned.

However, the disease — if it’s truly ALS — generally spreads from one part of the body to another (almost always in parts adjacent to each other) so that eventually the problem can no longer be ignored.

Which symptoms appear first depends on the muscles affected. When the disease damages lower motor neurons, muscles in a particular part of the body (like the hand or foot) will be affected. When ALS impacts upper motor neurons, people will experience general clumsiness, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. Eventually, the disease will spread to all of the body's muscles and lead to total paralysis.

In the early stages of the disease, symptoms may include muscle weakness in one part of the body (an arm or leg); clumsiness, such as tripping and dropping things; difficulty speaking or swallowing; muscle twitches (fasciculations) and cramps; fatigue in the arms or legs; weight loss and the loss of muscle mass; and uncontrolled laughing or crying, called emotional incontinence.

ALS affects the upper motor neurons, which are in the brain, and the lower motor neurons, which are in the spinal cord and brainstem. Upper motor neuron degeneration generally causes spasticity (tightness in a muscle), while lower motor neuron degeneration causes muscle weakness, muscle atrophy(shrinkage of muscles) and twitching. These can occur in combination in ALS, as upper and lower motor neurons are being lost at the same time.

The NINDS and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention/ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR) are committed to studies of disease patterns or risk factors among persons with ALS in order to better understand the causes of ALS, the mechanisms involved in the progression of the disease, and to develop effective treatments. The National ALS Registry, a program to collect, manage, and analyze data about persons with ALS, was launched in October 2010 and is actively enrolling individuals with the disease. The Registry includes data from national databases as well as de-identified information provided by persons with ALS. All collected information is kept confidential. Persons living with ALS who choose to participate can add their information to the Registry by visiting www.cdc.gov/als.

Encouraging fact to remember:

STEPHEN HAWKING

Most people who receive a diagnosis of ALS can expect to live just three to five years. British physicist Stephen Hawking has defied the odds, living for more than 45 years with the disease. Hawking was diagnosed at 21, while a graduate student at Cambridge University. He has been wheelchair-bound since the 1970s. In 1985, he developed pneumonia and had to have a tracheotomy operation, which robbed him of his ability to speak. When a computer whiz in California heard of Hawking's plight, he sent him a computer program called Equalizer that could speak for him. Since then, Hawking has become known for the synthesized, computer-generated voice that enables him to speak. Determined early on not to let the disease steal his life, Hawking went on to become one of the world's preeminent physicists. He published the best-selling book, "A Brief History of Time," and he has made great contributions to the fields of quantum gravity and cosmology.

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