Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Awareness Month

Lou Gehrig 
(Google Image) 

By Diane Forrest, RN

In 1923 a handsome brown haired dimpled faced 20 year old man put on a New York Yankee baseball uniform, number 4, and began a life time career of professional baseball.  He played 2130 consecutive games during his 17 seasons, a record that lasted until 1995.  He was nicknamed the “Iron Horse” for his batting ability.  During his career he had 23 grand slams, 492 home runs, and 2721 hits.  He, along with Babe Ruth opened the Yankee stadium, he was the first athlete on a box of Wheaties, and was awarded a post office stamp in 1989, and was the first player to have his number, 4, retired and he was the only player in history to collect 400 total bases in five seasons.  He had a grand career until 1938.  His performance began to slip.  In 1939, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  On June 21, 1939 his retirement was announced, and on June 2, 1941 he died at his home in the Bronx.  His name was Lou Gehrig.  His disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also known as the Lou Gehrig's disease.  He was 38 years old.

(Google Image) 

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.  In about 10% of cases, ALS is caused by a genetic defect. In the remaining cases, the cause is unknown.

(Google Image) 

In ALS, nerve cells (neurons) waste away or die, and can no longer send messages to muscles. This eventually leads to muscle weakening, twitching, and an inability to move the arms, legs, and body. The condition slowly gets worse. When the muscles in the chest area stop working, it becomes hard or impossible to breathe on one's own.

(Google Image) 

ALS affects approximately 5 out of every 100,000 people worldwide. There are no known risk factors, except for having a family member who has a hereditary form of the disease.

Symptoms usually don’t appear until after the age of 50.  They include:
  1. Difficulty swallowing
  2. Difficulty breathing
  3. Muscle weakness, twitching and cramps
  4. Paralysis
  5. Difficulty speaking

There is no known cure for ALS, and death occurs usually in 3 to 5 years.  May is ALS awareness month.  To learn about ways you can help, visit their website here: to help find a cure.

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