What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a chronic disease of nerve cells responsible for controlling skeletal muscle. The character of ALS is the progressive degeneration of motor neurons in the anterior horn of the spinal cord, motor nuclei in the brain stem, and motor area neurons in the frontal lobe (lateral corticospinal), thus causing progressive paralysis of the skeletal muscle. (1, Gilroy, 2000).

The word "amyotrophic" comes from the Greek. "A," which means no or without. "Myo" means muscle. "Tropic" means food. When the three words are combined, it means "there is no food for muscles." The term "lateral" indicates the area in the Spinal Medulla where there are nerve cells that send impulses and regulate the movements of the muscles concerned, with a degeneration process in that area that can harden (sclerosis).

"Amyotrophy" refers to muscle fibers' atrophy, causing weakness in the affected muscles and fasciculation. "Lateral sclerosis" refers to the hardening of lateral and anterior corticospinal ducts as motor neurons in areas that decline function and are replaced by gliosis. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can cause respiratory failure due to selective degeneration of neurons responsible for voluntary movements.

Lou Gehrig Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Lou Gehrig with his wife


In 1864, the first time the symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) were published by a French neurologist and anatomical pathologist professor, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot. So this disease is also known as Charcot's Disease. It is one of the most important classifications (80%) of Motor Neuron Disease (MND), characterized by gradual degeneration and death in motor neurons. ALS is also called Lou Gehrig's disease after the famous baseball player who died of the disease in 1941.


ALS is the most common case of motor neuron disease. Each ethnic group can be affected by this disease. The ALS incidence varies between 1.5-2.7 cases per 100,000 population, and the highest age for ALS is between 40 - 60 years. Very rarely, ALS can be diagnosed under the age of 20 years. Men are more affected than women, with a ratio of 1.5: 1. Except in patients with bulbar onset, it is more common in women.

Source picture: