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What is Lou Gehrig's disease?

Learn about Lou Gehrig's disease, a motor neuron disease that affects voluntary motor functions.

Lou Gehrig's disease affects a person's motor skills. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Lou Gehrig's disease affects a person's motor skills.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a motor neuron disease that appears in middle age or late in life. It results from a progressive degeneration of the nerve cells that control voluntary motor functions. The disease typically results in death three to 10 years after onset. There is no cure for ALS.

At the onset of the disease, the patient notices weakness in the hands and arms with involuntary muscle quivering and possible muscle cramping or stiffness. Eventually all four extremities become involved. As nerve degeneration progresses, disability occurs and physical independence declines until the patient, while mentally and intellectually aware, can no longer swallow or move.

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