Facts about ALS
ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – is not a single disease; it is a collective term for a group of diseases that attack parts of the brain, the brain stem and the spinal cord, and break down the motor neurons that control muscles.
The body’s muscles gradually weaken and finally atrophy. When the respiratory muscles are affected the ALS patient dies.
The disease occurs throughout the world. Some 200 people a year, most of them of working age, are diagnosed with ALS each year. It is estimated that 600–700 people in Sweden have the disease. One or two out of ten patients have a relative who has previously developed ALS. ALS is slightly more common among men.
Approximately half of patients die two to four years after onset of the disease, although ten percent survive for more than ten years. A few patients have lived with the disease for over 30 years, the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking being one example.
At present there is only one medicine for the treatment of ALS. It does not cure the disease, but may slow its progress.