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.
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.
Here are some quick reference facts about ALS: