Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects thousands of Americans a year.
It goes by many names, such as ALS, Motor Neuron Disease (MND), and Lou Gehrig’s disease. It attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord needed to keep muscles moving, leading to muscle weakness, loss of movement, and eventual paralysis. There are an estimated 30,000 living with this devastating disease in the United States, and there is currently no cure. However, with awareness and dedication, we can fight back.
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Symptoms of ALS
In most cases, ALS involves a gradual onset, and its initial symptoms can vary significantly from person to person. Symptoms of ALS can start in the muscles that control speech, swallowing, hands, arms, feet, or legs. For example, one person may have sudden difficulty grasping a pen or lifting their glass, while another individual might experience a change in vocal pitch while talking. The rate at which ALS progresses also varies from one person to the next. Not all people with ALS will necessarily experience the same symptoms or progression patterns. However, progressive muscle weakness and paralysis are seemingly experienced by everyone affected by ALS.
What Causes ALS
The exact cause of ALS is unknown, but research shows that 10% of cases are genetic, which involves a specific genetic mutation that is inherited and passed down from one generation to the next. The other 90% of cases are referred to as sporadic ALS, which means there is no known history of the disease in their family. Theories of these cases include mitochondrial dysfunction, glutamate toxicity, oxidative stress, immune system over-activity, and toxic exposures. Clinically, the two appear to be indistinguishable from one another.
Finding a Cure for ALS
There is no current cure for ALS, nor are there any treatments to stop the disease’s progression. ALS is incredibly complex and varies from person to person, making finding a cure much more difficult since effective treatments for each person living with the disease would differ from one to the next. Thankfully, numerous researchers and groups work each day to find effective treatments and a cure and are dedicated to learning more about ALS.
Living with ALS
While the mean survival time with ALS is three to five years, some people living with the disease live ten or more years. Because there is no cure for ALS, the current focus is to prolong survival by treating symptoms, offering supportive care, and improving quality of life.
Fight ALS with Saints to Sinners
The only way to find a cure and fight against ALS is to bring awareness and financial aid to the cause. That’s why we created the Saints to Sinners bike relay race. Twelve years ago, back in 2009, Saints to Sinners was created and dedicated to Ron Frandsen and his brave fight against ALS. While ALS eventually won that battle, we are determined to win the overall war against ALS. You can help bring awareness to ALS and raise money to fight this dreadful disease by registering to ride from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Saints to Sinners bike relay today.