WebMD explains that there is not known cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. ALS is a progressive degenerative neurological disorder for which there is no known cure. In 1939, ALS came into the spotlight when famed baseball player Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with the disease.
The ALS Association states the symptoms of the disease include muscle weakness and stiffness. Gradually and steadily the muscles grow weaker, eventually leading to paralysis of the limbs and the trunk of the body. Ultimately the disease spreads to muscles that control critical bodily functions including speech, swallowing and breathing.
The National Institutes of Health explain that the drug Riluzole has been found to reduce the damage to the motor neurons caused by ALS. Although the drug does not reverse prior damage, it does prolong an individual’s life for several months.
The disease strikes more men than women and occurs most often in individuals over the age of 40. The average lifespan of an individual after a diagnosis is typically two to five years. Only about 20 percent of the individuals survive longer than five years. The ALS Association reports that 5,600 cases are diagnosed in the United States every year and estimates that two people per 100,000 die from the disease each year.