According to the Mayo Clinic, ALS affects the nerve cells in the brain and spine that control muscle movement. It doesn’t discriminate and affects people of all races and socio-economic statuses. Based on U.S. Population studies, a little over 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. (That’s 15 new cases a day.) Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with the disease and someone passes away from it. It is estimated that at least 30,000 have the disease at any given time. Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. However, cases of the disease do occur in persons in their twenties and thirties.

There’s currently no cure for ALS, which slowly and progressively robs its victims of the ability to walk, use arms/hands, talk, swallow, and ultimately breathe. There are currently some treatments to help alleviate the symptoms, however, these have mediocre results. Encouragingly, science and research are making significant progress in understanding what causes ALS, giving us hope for the future.

The rate of progression between patients can vary greatly. A fast progression generally leads to death from ALS within two years, while a slow progression may take 5 years or more. Each ALS patient will have their own rate, but the average life expectancy is 3-5 years after diagnosis, and only about 10% of patients will live more than 10 years. About 5-10% of ALS cases are believed to be the result of an inherited gene, but the remaining cases are sporadic – no known specific cause.

Despite decades of research, there is currently no cure for ALS, nor is there any method of prevention. Treatments for ALS have focused on treating the symptoms of the disease and improving the quality of life as symptoms progress. Riluzole, Nuedexta, and Radicava are the only FDA-approved treatments that have been clinically shown to offer a benefit to patients, but the benefit is only a minor slowdown in progression and delayed onset of some symptoms.

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