Sunday, September 27, 2020

ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease

The official name of the illness is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but in the U.S. it is better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the Yankees baseball player who died of it in 1941.

He died from the progressive neuromuscular disorder, which attacks nerve cells that lead from the brain and the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body.

The word “amyotrophic” comes from Greek roots that mean “without nourishment to muscles” and refers to the loss of signals nerve cells normally send to muscle cells. “Lateral” means “to the side” and refers to the location of the damage in the spinal cord. “Sclerosis” means “hardened” and refers to the hardened nature of the spinal cord in advanced ALS.

The disease is a rare neurological disease that affects nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, breathing and talking. It involves degeneration of the nerves that control muscles causing progressive paralysis and wasting.

Familial ALS is a particular form of the disease that is inherited, but only about 5 to 10 percent of all patients fall into this category. The other 90 to 95 percent of the time, it is “sporadic” (that is, there is no family history of the disease).

Often cramps are the first sign of the disorder. Weakness and wasting of the arms, legs, and hands develop over months. Symptoms typically include twitching, stiffness, muscle cramps, difficulty twisting or turning a key and so the patient may think perhaps this is arthritis.

Other well-known people who suffered from ALS include British actor David Niven, Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease

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