May is ALS Awareness Month. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Amyotrophic means no muscle nourishment, leading to the muscle wasting away. ALS affects the spinal cord that identifies the nerve cells that signal and control where the muscles are located. When this degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening, aka sclerosis. ALS usually occurs people between the ages of 40 and 70. It is estimated there are at least 16,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time.
The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move, and breathe. The motor nerves that are involved when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle control.
There are two different types of ALS; sporadic and familial. Sporadic is the most common form of the disease in the U.S., accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. It may affect anyone, anywhere. Familial ALS (FALS) accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases in the U.S. Familial ALS means the disease is inherited. In those families, there is a 50% chance each offspring will inherit the gene mutation and may develop the disease.
At NY Health, Suman Reejsinghani, M.D., a board-certified neurologist, has over 30 years of experience with multiple sclerosis and can address your condition. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Reejsinghani, please contact us at 718-520-1800.