Often called “Lou Gehrig’s disease” for the New York Yankees baseball icon, ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that slowly robs people of the ability to walk, speak and breathe. Most people live only 2 to 5 years from diagnosis. Approximately 1,000 people in Illinois and 35,000 people in the U.S. are living with ALS at any given time, and another person is diagnosed every 90 minutes. The incidence of ALS is close to that of multiple sclerosis and four times that of muscular dystrophy.
ALS occurs throughout the world regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Men are affected slightly more frequently than women. It most commonly occurs between 40 and 70 years of age, although the disease can strike at any age. It is likely that there are several different causes of ALS. Approximately 10 percent of all ALS cases are known to be caused by certain genetic factors and are called “familial ALS.” The remaining 90 percent of cases, called “sporadic ALS,” currently have no known cause.