Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease

At the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Center* at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, we have extensive experience diagnosing and treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Northwestern Memorial Hospital is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Illinois by U.S. News & World Report and is at the forefront of ALS treatment. Northwestern Medicine offers edaravone, the first FDA-approved ALS treatment in 22 years.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative neurological disorder affecting the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the famed baseball player who had the condition.

ALS attacks the neurons that transmit messages from the brain and spinal cord to the voluntary muscles (the muscles you can control). Motor neurons degenerate or die, and as this happens, they stop transmitting messages to the muscles. 

Over time, the muscles weaken, atrophy (waste away) and twitch. While the brain gradually loses the ability to control voluntary movement, ALS does not impact mental functioning, such as sight, hearing or comprehension.

The disease affects people of all racial and ethnic groups, most commonly those between the ages of 40 and 70, though the condition can develop in younger people.

The two main classifications of ALS include:

  • Familial: This form of ALS affects 5 to 10 percent of people with the disease. Genetics are believed to play a role in the development of this form of ALS.
  • Sporadic: This is the most common form of ALS, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. This form of the disease is random, not hereditary and the cause is unknown.

There currently is no cure for ALS, and most patients die due to respiratory failure, typically within three to five years of onset of symptoms. Approximately 10 percent of people with ALS survive for 10 or more years.

The Northwestern Medicine Lois Insolia ALS Center
The Northwestern Medicine Lois Insolia ALS Center in Chicago was established in 1986 with funds from the James V. Insolia family and the Les Turner ALS Foundation. The Center is affiliated with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and utilizes a multidisciplinary team approach where trained specialists provide diagnostic, rehabilitative and supportive services focusing on assessment, care planning and education. Some of the specialized services offered to patients include communication devices from the Foundation’s communication bank, mobility assistance, a patient resource guide to ALS, ventilation videos to reference, home visits by home nurse consultants and licensed clinical social worker, transportation to and from the clinic visit as needed and free parking for patients during their appointments.

The Lois Insolia ALS Center is dedicated to the total care of people with ALS. During a visit, patients meet with several members of the team and each provides input and suggestions regarding healthcare needs.

To make an appointment with the Lois Insolia ALS Center, please call 312.695.7950. Patients are seen by appointment only. The program coordinator will schedule a time for you and explain what will happen during your visit.

The board-certified neurologists at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. They diagnose and treat patients with a full range of neurological disorders, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

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