Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease and motor neurone disease (MND), is a specific disease that causes the death of neurons which control voluntary muscles. Some also use the term "motor neuron disease" for a group of conditions of which ALS is the most common. ALS is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness due to muscles decreasing in size. This results in difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing.
The cause is not known in 90% to 95% of cases. About 5–10% of cases are inherited from a person's parents. About half of these genetic cases are due to one of two specific genes. The diagnosis is based on a person's signs and symptoms with testing done to rule out other potential causes.
No cure for ALS is known. A medication called riluzole may extend life by about two to three months Non-invasive ventilation may result in both improved quality and length of life. The disease usually starts around the age of 60 and in inherited cases around the age of 50. The average survival from onset to death is two to four years. About 10% survive longer than 10 years. Most die from respiratory failure. In much of the world, rates of ALS are unknown. In Europe and the United States the disease affects about two people per 100,000 per year.
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