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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

About ALS

Sunday, March 27, 2005

-- ALS affects between 30,000 and 40,000 people year.

-- Patients lose vital muscle control and the ability to move, swallow and breathe. The average life expectancy upon diagnosis is two to five years, although some can live 10 years.

-- ALS affects both genders, all races and has been found in people as young as 19.

-- Symptoms include muscle twitching, loss of ability to speak properly, loss of ability to grasp things in some cases.

-- No cause is known and there may be more than one cause. Right now researchers are looking at different environmental issues such as heavy metals and different chemicals in the environment causing the disease.

-- The Missouri State Department of Epidemiology is currently studying the Jefferson County area because an abnormal incidence rate of the disease is present there -- about 89 times higher -- and also there's a lead smelter there. In addition to Missouri the federal government is studying five other states with high rates of ALS.

-- Communication devices are available so ALS patients can access a computer or help them speak, and there are tracking devices where they can blink and operate a computer.

-- There's no testing for ALS. According to Mary Calhoun, it's basically a process of elimination, because the symptoms so much like other muscle diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Doctors have to go through a series of tests to eliminate the other diseases, and then a patient can be diagnosed with ALS.