NINDS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Information Page: NINDS


Article title: NINDS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Information Page: NINDS
Conditions: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive, fatal neurological disease affecting as many as 20,000 Americans with 5,000 new cases occurring in the United States each year. The disorder belongs to a class of disorders known as motor neuron diseases. ALS occurs when specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary movement gradually degenerate. The loss of these motor neurons causes the muscles under their control to weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. ALS manifests itself in different ways, depending on which muscles weaken first. Symptoms may include tripping and falling, loss of motor control in hands and arms, difficulty speaking, swallowing and/or breathing, persistent fatigue, and twitching and cramping, sometimes quite severely. ALS strikes in mid-life. Men are about one-and-a-half times more likely to have the disease as women.

Is there any treatment?
There is no cure for ALS; nor is there a proven therapy that will prevent or reverse the course of the disorder. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved riluzole, the first drug that has been shown to prolong the survival of ALS patients. Patients may also receive supportive treatments that address some of their symptoms.

What is the prognosis?
ALS is usually fatal within five years after diagnosis.

What research is being done?
The NINDS supports a broad range of studies aimed at discovering the cause(s) of ALS, finding better treatments, and ultimately preventing and curing the disorder.


ALS Association of America (ALSA)
27001 Agoura Road
Suite 150
Calabasas Hills, CA 91301-5104
Tel: 818-880-9007 800-782-4747
Fax: 818-880-9006

Center for Neurologic Study
9850 Genesee Avenue
Suite 320
LaJolla, CA 92037
Tel: 858-455-5463
Fax: 858-455 -1713 Fax: 619-455-1713

Forbes Norris ALS Research Center
California Pacific Medical Center
2324 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Tel: 415-923-3604
Fax: 415-673-5184

Les Turner ALS Foundation
8142 North Lawndale Avenue
Skokie, IL 60076
Tel: 888-ALS-1107 847-679-3311
Fax: 847-679-9109

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718-3208
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Fact Sheet
    A fact sheet on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) prepared by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Testimony on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, May 2000
    NINDS Director's testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), May 18, 2000.

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892

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