Health and Medicine

Diseases, Disorders, and Other Health Problems

What is Lou Gehrig’s disease?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s (1903–1941) disease after the New York Yankees baseball player who retired from baseball in 1939 after being diagnosed with ALS, is a motor neuron disease of middle or late life. It results from a progressive degeneration of nerve cells controlling voluntary motor functions that ends in death three to ten years after onset. There is no cure for it. At the beginning of the disease, the patient notices weakness in the hands and arms, with involuntary muscle quivering and possible muscle cramping or stiffness. Eventually all four extremities become involved. As nerve degeneration progresses, disability occurs and physical independence declines until the patient, while mentally and intellectually aware, can no longer move, swallow, or breathe.


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