Recently, all over Facebook and other social media, you have probably seen friends and celebrities alike dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads. The goal of the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” is to raise awareness for ALS and generate donations to help further research of the disease. However, there are many unknowns about ALS and most of the general public does not know the real truth about this frightening disease.
What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)?
Each year, according to ALSA.org, more than 5,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  ALS is a fatal motor neuron disease which causes muscle atrophy and loss of control over muscle movement.
The disease is degenerative in nature and causes paralysis and eventual death. ALS is characterized by muscle spasms, muscle stiffness accompanied by weakness and cramping, trouble swallowing, breathing and speaking.
How common is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, reports estimate around 12,000-15,000 people in the United States are currently living with ALS.  Because information about ALS has not been accurately kept, it is hard to know the exact number of people with the disease.
Although Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis was first diagnosed in 1869, it was brought to the attention of the public when famous baseball player Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees was diagnosed with the disease.
Who is at risk for ALS?
There are established risk factors associated with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis which includes the following:
- Gender: Before the age of 65, men have a slightly higher risk of developing ALS than women.  The gender difference ends after the age of 70-years old.
- Hereditary: Between 5-10% of people with ALS inherit it through a genetic link.  In families with ALS, children acquire a 50-50 chance of developing the disease.