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How does ALS cause disability?

By now, most of our readers have probably heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For those who have not, it is a fundraiser campaign, where participants donate $10 to the ALS Association and post a video online of a bucket of cold water being dumped over their head. The participant then challenges three other people to do the same within 24 hours, or donate $100 instead.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral, and become a huge sensation. The ALS Association reports that it has received $112 million in donations from the movement.

These funds are much-needed, because amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a very serious disorder for which there is no cure. It is a progressive disease that can cause total paralysis, and is fatal within 10 years 96 percent of the time.

The disease affects the motor neurons, which run between the brain, the spinal cord and the body’s muscles. As ALS degenerates the motor neurons, these nerves lose the ability to send impulses to muscle fibers. In the disease’s early stages, this can cause muscle weakness, particularly in the limbs, along with trouble speaking, swallowing and breathing.

The cause of ALS is not known, and there is no cure, or even a treatment to stop or reverse its effects. A drug is available to slow down the disease’s progress. But it is almost inevitable that someone with ALS will have to stop working sooner or later, as they lose the ability to move and take care of themselves.

For people with ALS or a similar condition, Social Security Disability benefits can make a big difference in making ends meet.


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