Understanding ALS: The Basics

How did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Raise ALS Awareness?

Those who remember the challenge that nominated individuals to dump a bucket of ice water on your head know it was more than just another viral sensation. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge brought awareness to ALS with countless chain videos and donations to the ALS Association from those participating.

Thanks to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, $115 million dollars was raised to help fund research, used for donations to patients and community services, and brought awareness of the disease.

While the Ice Bucket Challenge brought ALS to the forefront in the summer of 2014, many people are still unaware of what ALS, or amyotrpohic lateral sclerosis, is and the affects it has on those diagnosed.

What is ALS?

ALS is a fatal, progressive neurodegenerative disease which affects the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. Essentially, this means that the neurons of the cells in the brain and spinal cord progressively lose their function and structure causing irreversible damage. 

An important part of this process is that these neuron cells do not replace themselves, so once the neurons lose their function, they are damaged for the rest of that person’s life and will slowly affect all nerve cells in the brain and body.

Those diagnosed with ALS will lose the ability of their brain to control muscle movement. As a result, those with ALS will potentially face the inability to talk, move, eat, or breathe.

Who is diagnosed with ALS?

ALS comes in two forms, familial and sporadic. Familial is the rarer of the two types and is genetic. A person diagnosed with familial ALS has a 50% chance of passing the disease onto their children. Sporadic, the most common form of ALS, comes about how its name suggests: sporadically, or randomly, to anyone, at any time.

Those diagnosed with ALS are usually between the 40 and 70 years old.

What are ALS symptoms?

ALS affects every person differently, but occurs gradually and usually painlessly. Early symptoms could include muscle cramps and twitches, fatigue in arms and legs, speech changes, or uncontrollable laughter or crying.

As ALS progresses, people experience eventual paralysis and changes with their breathing muscles. Ultimately, the changes to breathing muscles lead to permanent breathing support. More often than not, respiratory failure is the cause of death for those with ALS.

Those diagnosed with ALS live anywhere on average from three-five years after diagnosis, but many can live longer.

How do you treat ALS?

No cure for ALS exists despite a large effort by various health organizations and foundations. However, current treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and prevent complications. Treatment can also help those diagnosed have more independence.

As ALS progresses and control of muscles deteriorates, those diagnosed will need help from friends, family, or caregivers. Daily activities can become a struggle for those living with ALS, so assistance is necessary to help maintain quality of life.

Do you have a loved one diagnosed with ALS?

Caregogi.com can help fill the gap for care for any senior in need of home care. Caregogi matches seniors with caregivers for half the cost of traditional agencies. To find your caregiver now, click the button below.

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For more information on ALS or help dealing with an ALS diagnosis, visit The ALS Association.

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