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.