Symptoms and Facts
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a rapid, always fatal, neurodegenerative disease. It attacks the nerves of the body that would normally send messages from the brain to the muscle, resulting in weakness and wasting. Eventually, the individual with ALS is left completely immobilized, with loss of speech and an inability to swallow and breathe.
The sensory neurons in people living with ALS continue to function normally, so they continue to feel the sensations of heat, cold, discomfort, etc. The mind often remains completely alert and lucid. The result is often a lively, unimpaired mind trapped in an immobilized body. The average life expectancy from symptom onset is two to five years; the real challenge in the medical community is correctly diagnosing ALS in the early stages, so that the ALS Society of Alberta is able to provide the maximum level of assistance to the person living with ALS and that person's family.
Approximately 3,000 Canadians live with ALS and two to three Canadians die every day of ALS. There is no known cause or cure for this devastating disease - yet.
- ALS can strike anyone, at any time, regardless of age, sex or ethnic origin.
- The usual age of onset is 55-65, but people under 20 have been diagnosed.
- Approximately 2,500-3,000 Canadians currently live with ALS.
- In at least 90 per cent of cases, it strikes people with no family history of the disease.
- Eighty per cent of people with ALS die within three to five years of diagnosis.
- A person with ALS can require equipment and care valued at more than $240,000.
- The cause is unknown. There is no known cure or treatment that prolongs life significantly - yet.