ALS - Description

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable disease of the motoric nervous system. It is a chronic degenerative disease, which means that its progress cannot be stopped. Its symptoms are similar to those of the neuro-degenerative diseases. The disease pattern becomes clear after a significant muscle atrophy of the hands and then of the legs and in the end, of the face and the rest of the body. ALS has the following synonyms:

  • Charcot disease
  • Lou-Gehrig syndrome
  • Myatrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has been known since the middle of the 19th  century. Compared to other nervous system diseases, it is extremely rare.   The disease occurs in two of 100,000 individuals each year. Compared to all the other regions on the planet, the rate of disease is slightly higher in Europe.  In most cases the disease begins between the 50th and the 70th year of life. The first warning signs are muscle weakness and muscle atrophy in the extremities. Later a breakdown of the face muscles sets in.  Muscle cramps and involuntary spasms can be observed as well.  Mental abilities are maintained and an associated dementia occurs very rarely. Neurologists define three forms of ALS:

  • The sporadic form:  The ALS has no clear cause
  • The familiar form: ALS is a genetically conditioned disease and is transmitted from parents to children
  • The endemic form: With this form, ALS occurs more often in certain regions.  A cause for this could not be determined yet.