Amyotrphic Lateral Sclerosis stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is more commonly referred to as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the baseball player who was diagnosed with the condition in the 1930s.
A motor neuron disease, ALS affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that are responsible for controlling the muscles. The condition is progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time. As it advances, the muscles become weaker and it becomes increasingly difficult to complete tasks that require muscle movement, such as walking, eating, talking and even breathing. In the advanced stages of ALS, the muscles can become so weak that the condition can become fatal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there were as many as 15,000 people affected by ALS in the United States in 2016. Approximately 5,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year. Worldwide, ALS is believed to affect somewhere between 2 and 5 out of every 100,000 people.
The specific cause of this condition is not known, but it is believed that genetic and environmental factors do play a role. The majority of people who have ALS live with the condition for about 3 to 5 years before any symptoms present. There is no cure for ALS, but treatment is available that can help to relieve the symptoms, allowing for a better quality of life. It is crucial to be aware of the symptoms, as the earlier ALS is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be provided.
1. Walking becomes difficult
One of the earliest symptoms of ALS is difficulty walking. Many patients report that they notice that walking becomes a more trying task, and that it tires them out quickly. Others have a hard time coordinating the movement of their legs, which also makes walking a challenge, as it can become difficult to make strides or navigate around objects. Often, difficulty walking is dismissed as being caused by something else, such as issues with the joints, tiredness and age. If difficulty walking arises out of nowhere, it should not be ignored, as it could by a symptom of ALS.