About ALS

What is ALS?

ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. The senses are unimpaired and the intellect may remain unaffected. ALS can strike anyone, male or female, of any ethnic origin and of any age. Usual onset is in middle-age, but some have been diagnosed as teens.

ALS strikes about six to eight people per 100,000. In any given year, about two new cases of ALS per 100,000 people will be diagnosed. 80 per cent of those diagnosed will die within two to five years. Less than 10 per cent of cases are hereditary and are called familial ALS, 90 per cent of ALS cases have no known cause and are referred to as sporadic ALS. ALS is not contagious.

Approximately 2,500 – 3,000 Canadians live with ALS. Every day two or three Canadians die of the disease. ALS is the most common cause of neurological death in Canada.

ALS was first identified by French neurologist Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot in 1869.

ALS may also be called:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Sclérose latérale amyotrophique (SLA)
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Motor Neuron Disease (MND)
  • Maladie de Charcot

* Original CT photo scan by Dr. Frank Gaillard, provided on a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence.