ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide, and people of all races and ethnic backgrounds are affected.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease, or Maladie de Charcot) is a progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement.
Between 1 to 2 people per 100,000 develop Lou Gehrig's Disease each year. ALS most commonly strikes people between 40 and 60 years of age, but younger and older people can also develop the disease.
Scientists have not found a definitive cause for Lou Gehrig's Disease but the onset of the disease can be linked to a variety of risk factors. It is believed that one or more of the following factors are responsible for the majority of Lou Gehrig's Disease cases. Researchers suspect a virus, exposure to neurotoxins or heavy metals, DNA defects, immune system abnormalities, and enzyme abnormalities as the leading causes of the disease.
Lou Gehrig's Disease Symptoms
The onset of ALS may be so subtle that the symptoms are frequently overlooked. The earliest symptoms of Lou Gehrig's Disease may include twitching, cramping, or stiffness of muscles; muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg, and/or slurred and nasal speech. Eventually, ALS weakens muscles, including muscles used for breathing, until they become paralyzed.
Men are affected slightly more often than women.
|Famous People with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease|
|Lou Gehrig - Henry Louis "Lou" Gehrig (June 19, 1903 - June 2, 1941), born Ludwig Heinrich Gehrig, was an American baseball player in the 1920s and 1930s, who set several Major League records and was popularly called the "The Iron Horse" for his durability. His record for most career grand slam home runs (23) still stands today. At the midpoint of the 1938 season, Gehrig's performance began to diminish. As Lou Gehrig's debilitation became steadily worse, Eleanor called the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After six days of extensive testing at Mayo Clinic, the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was confirmed on June 19, Gehrig's 36th birthday. The prognosis was grim: rapidly increasing paralysis, difficulty in swallowing and speaking, and a life expectancy of fewer than three years, although there would be no impairment of mental functions. Gehrig probably was told that the cause of ALS was unknown but it was painless, non-contagious and cruel - the nervous system is destroyed but the mind remains intact.|
|Professor Stephen Hawking - Born on the eighth of January in the year 1942 in Oxford, England. Stephen has conducted work concerning the basic laws that govern the universe itself. Along with Roger Penrose, he has shown that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the, "Big Bang," and end in black holes. In regards to the disability Stephen experiences, he has some things to say: "I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many."|
|Mao Zedong - (1893-1976) Chinese military and political leader, who led the Communist Party of China (CPC) to victory against the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War, and was the leader of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. Regarded as one of the most important figures in modern world history, Mao is still a controversial figure today, over thirty years after his death. He died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known in the U.S as Lou Gehrig's Disease and elsewhere as Motor Neurone Disease. Mao had been in poor health for several years and had declined visibly for some months prior to his death.|
|Lead Belly - Huddie William Ledbetter, (January, 1888 - December 6, 1949) was an American folk and blues musician, notable for his clear and forceful singing, his virtuosity on the twelve string guitar, and the rich songbook of folk standards he introduced. Although he most commonly played the twelve string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina, and accordion. In some of his recordings, such as in one of his versions of the folk ballad "John Hardy", he performs on the accordion instead of the guitar. In 1949 he began his first European tour with a trip to France, but fell ill before its completion, and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Lead Belly died later that year in New York City.|
|Charles Mingus - (April 22, 1922 - January 5, 1979) was an American jazz bassist, composer, bandleader, and occasional pianist. He was also known for his activism against racial injustice. Mingus was prone to depression. He tended to have brief periods of extreme creative activity, intermixed with fairly long periods of greatly decreased output. By the mid-1970s, Mingus was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (popularly known as Lou Gehrig's disease), a wastage of the musculature. His once formidable bass technique suffered, until he could no longer play the instrument. He continued composing, however, and supervised a number of recordings before his death. Mingus died aged 56 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had traveled for treatment and convalescence. His ashes were scattered in the Ganges River.|
|Lane Smith - (born April 29, 1936 - June 13, 2005) was an American actor best known for his role as Perry White in the American television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also played Richard Nixon in The Final Days, for which he received a Golden Globe award nomination for best actor in a mini-series or motion picture made for television in 1990. Smith was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease in April 2005 and died of the disease at his home in Northridge, California on June 13, 2005. He was 69 years old.|
|David Niven - James David Graham Niven (March 1, 1910 - July 29, 1983) was an Academy Award-winning English actor. He resumed his career after war II, with films such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) (as Phileas Fogg), The Guns Of Navarone (1961), and The Pink Panther (1963). The same year as he hosted the show with Jack Lemmon and Bob Hope, Niven won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables (1958). Niven had a long and complex relationship with Samuel Goldwyn. Niven died in Switzerland on July 29, 1983 of motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig's Disease) at age 73.|
|Don Revie - Donald George Revie - OBE, (10 July 1927 - 26 May 1989), was a football player for Leicester City, Hull City, Sunderland, Manchester City and Leeds United as a deep-lying centre forward. After managing Leeds United (1961-1974) with great success, his reign becoming known as Leeds' "Glory Years", he managed England from 1974 until 1977. In 1987 he revealed that he was suffering from motor neurone disease, and he died in Edinburgh in May 1989, aged 61.|
|Jason Becker- (born July 22, 1969) is an American neo-classical metal guitarist and composer. At the age of 16 he became part of the Mike Varney-produced duo Cacophony with his friend Marty Friedman. They released Speed Metal Symphony in 1987 and Go Off! in 1988. At the age of 20, he joined David Lee Roth's band. While recording the album A Little Ain't Enough and preparing for the respective tour, he began to feel what he called a "lazy limp" on his left leg. He was soon diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and given three years to live. He could barely finish the recording, using low-gauge (thin) guitar strings and other techniques to make it easier to play with his weakening hands. He eventually lost the ability to speak and now communicates with his eyes via a system developed by his father. Although his ALS gradually robbed him of his ability to play guitar, to walk, and eventually even to speak, he still remains mentally sharp and, with the aid of a computer, continues composing.|
|Dieter Dengler - (May 22, 1938 - February 7, 2001) was a United States Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. He was one of the two survivors (the other being Pisidhi Indradat), out of seven, to escape from a Pathet Lao prison camp in Laos. He was rescued after 23 days on the run. He continued flying almost up until his death, as a pilot for TWA until his retirement at age 59, then privately. In 2000, Dengler was inducted into the Gathering of Eagles program and told the story of his escape to groups of young military officers. Dengler died on February 7, 2001 of ALS.|
|Fokko du Cloux - (December 20, 1954 - November 10, 2006) was a mathematician and computer scientist who worked on the Atlas of Lie groups and representations until his death on November 10, 2006. One of the founding members of the project, he was responsible for building the Atlas software which was instrumental in the mapping of the E8 Lie Group. The Project successfully managed to map the structure of the E8 group in 2007. Fokko du Cloux was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2005, but he continued to actively participate in the project until his death.|
|Stanley Sadie - CBE (October 30, 1930-March 21, 2005) was a leading British musicologist, music critic, and editor. He was editor of the sixth edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980), which was published as the first edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Sadie died at his home in Cossington, Somerset on 21 March 2005, of amytrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), which had been diagnosed only a few weeks earlier.|
|Hans Keller - Hans Keller (1919-1985) was an Austrian-born British musician and writer who made significant contributions to musicology and music criticism, and invented the method of 'Wordless Functional Analysis' (in which a work is analysed in musical sound alone, without any words being heard or read). An original thinker never afraid of controversy, Keller's passionate support of composers whose work he saw as under-valued or insufficiently understood made him a tireless advocate of Benjamin Britten and Arnold Schoenberg as well as an illuminating analyst of figures such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Keller was married to the artist Milein Cosman, whose drawings illustrated some of his work.|
|Jacob Javits - Jacob Koppel "Jack" Javits (May 18, 1904 - March 7, 1986) was a liberal Republican New York politician originally allied with Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, fellow U.S. Senators Irving Ives and Kenneth Keating, and Mayor John V. Lindsay. Javits served until 1981; his 1979 diagnosis with amytrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) led to a 1980 primary challenge by the comparatively lesser-known Long Island Republican county official Alfonse D'Amato. Javits died of Lou Gehrig's disease in West Palm Beach, Florida, at the age of eighty-one.|
|Michael Zaslow - Michael Joel Zaslow (November 1, 1942 - December 6, 1998) was an American actor. He is best known for his role as villain Roger Thorpe on CBS's Guiding Light, a role he played from 1971 to 1980 and from 1989 to 1997. He had earlier played Dick Hart on the CBS soap opera Search for Tomorrow and Dr. Peter Chernak on Love is a Many Splendored Thing. He also played David Renaldi on ABC's One Life to Live from 1983 to 1986. It was some time before Zaslow was finally diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. His widow, psychologist/writer Susan Hufford, and his daughters, Marika and Helena, founded ZazAngels, a foundation that wishes to raise funds in order to find a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease.|
|Chris Pendergast - Pendergast was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, when he was 44 years old. Pendergast rode in his electric wheelchair from Yankee Stadium, where Gehrig played, to Washington, D.C. The 350-mile journey took 15 days to complete. Pendergast's symbolic journey, which he called a "Ride for Life," launched his advocacy campaign for increased research funding and Medicare laws for people living with ALS. Now in its ninth year, the annual Ride For Life has become a major ALS event, raising nearly $2 million so far. According to Ride For Life , more than 30,000 Americans have ALS, which is incurable and causes increasing paralysis, resulting in death from respiratory failure.|
|Dan Toler - (September 23, 1948 - February 25, 2013) - also known as "Dangerous Dan Toler", was an American guitarist. He become a member of The Allman Brothers Band with Betts from 1979-1982 appearing on Enlightened Rogues (1979), Reach for the Sky (1980) and Brothers of the Road (1981). Toler announced in 2011 that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative nerve diseased better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. "His ability to make people laugh and feel good and happy was amazing," the Sarasota Herald Tribune quoted his friend and former bandmate Chaz Trippy as saying. "That smile of his is just a force of life and, God, how he loved playing that guitar."|
|Dennis Day - (May 21, 1916, - June 22, 1988), born Owen Patrick Eugene McNulty, was an Irish-American singer and radio and television personality. Day appeared for the first time on Jack Benny's radio show on October 8, 1939, taking the place of another famed tenor, Kenny Baker. He remained associated with Benny's radio and television programs until Benny's death in 1974. Besides singing, Dennis Day was an excellent mimic. He did many imitations on the Benny program of various noted celebrities of the era, such as Ronald Colman, Jimmy Durante, and Jimmy Stewart. In 1948, Day married Peggy Almquist and the marriage lasted until his death, the couple had ten children. Dennis Day died of Lou Gehrig's disease at age 72 in Los Angeles, California.|
|Stephen Michael "Steve" Gleason - (March 19, 1977) - A former professional football player originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2000, he played for the Saints through the 2007 season. Gleason is especially well known for his blocked punt in a 2006 game that became a symbol of recovery in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, he revealed that he was battling ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.|
|Augie Nieto - (born Augustine L. Nieto II in 1958) is the founder and retired chief executive of Life Fitness and the chairman of Octane Fitness. In March 2005, Augie was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Augie Nieto is noted for fighting against ALS by creating "Augie's Quest", which he started by teaming with the Muscular Dystrophy Association after his diagnosis. Augie's Quest has raised over $30 million dollars in funds for research into the disease.|
|Mike Porcaro - (May 29, 1955 - March 15, 2015) was an American bass player, best noted for his work with the Grammy Award-winning band Toto. Porcaro stopped performing with Toto in 2007 after a growing numbness in his fingers that made it increasingly difficult for him to play. It was announced via official press release that Mike Porcaro was suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.|
|James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter - (April 8, 1946 - September 9, 1999), was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. During a 15 year baseball career, he pitched from 1965 to 1979 for both the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. Hunter became the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the Yankees in 1975. Hunter refused higher offers from the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals to sign with the New York Yankees. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. Hunter died at his home in Hertford, North Carolina, in 1999. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease", at the time.|
|Morrie Schwartz - (December 20, 1916 to November 4, 1995) was a sociology professor at Brandeis University and an author. He was the subject of the best-selling book Tuesdays With Morrie, which was published in 1997 and later made into a film. Morrie's father, Charlie Schwartz was a Russian immigrant who left Russia to escape the Russian Army. His mother died when he was only 8 years old. After his wife died, Charlie Schwartz remarried a Romanian woman named Eva who became Morrie's stepmother. Morrie had a younger brother David who developed polio at a young age. Morrie's whole family was Jewish. In adulthood Morrie married a woman named Charlotte and had two sons named Rob and Jon Schwartz.|
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