What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that rapidly attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for the control of the voluntary muscles. These motor neuron cells are located in the brain, brainstem and the spinal cord. They serve as a link for the communication between the nervous system and the voluntary muscles in the body. ALS attacks, degenerates, and kills these cells, thereby preventing messages from the brain to reach the muscles. As a result, the muscles begin to weaken and slowly waste away, until all the controlled voluntary movements are eventually lost. In the course of time, a person living with ALS will lose their ability to move their arms, legs and body. Difficulty breathing and chewing puts the patient at high risk of choking, while maintaining a healthy weight can become a problem. The disease does not affect the cognitive skills, such as processing thoughts, therefore the patient is completely aware of the progressive loss of their mobility and independence. Eventually, the muscles of the chest and diaphragm are affected, and as a result, the patient loses the ability to breathe on their own. Most ALS patients die from respiratory failure or pneumonia within 3-5 years from the beginning of the symptoms.

The cause of ALS is unknown and unfortunately there is no cure as of yet. Between 90-95% of the cases occur at random, with no indication of a cause (sporatic ALS), while there is approximately 5-10% of the cases in which ALS is inherited (familial ALS). This disease is extremely costly on various levels- emotionally, physically and financially. The equipment alone for a patient can average up to $137 000. If you factor in medical, home and nursing care, the cost can increase up to 10 times that amount.

Researchers’ goals are to find a cause and understand the mechanisms behind the disease in order to be able to develop treatments that are effective and to find a cure. Thanks to funding, recent research has shown significant advances and breakthroughs in the past years, however more research, and therefore more money, is needed.

The money raised through the ALS Society will provide financial support for future research and to provide care and support for those currently living with ALS.

This will be my third year participating in the “Walk for ALS” event and fundraising to help those diagnosed with this unforgiving disease. The money raised goes towards funding research and providing support and equipment to those affected with ALS. My goal this year is to raise $3000. If you wish to sponsor me, please click on the “Donate” icon below. I thank you so much in advance for your support.

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