ALS is the group name for certain degenerative neuromuscular diseases. Degenerative means it progressively gets worse over time. Neuromuscular means it involves both the nervous system and the muscular system. In the case of ALS, motor neurons gradually deteriorate and die. As a result, muscles gradually weaken, twitch, and atrophy. Eventually the brain loses the ability to initiate and control voluntary movements.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in 2016 that 14,000-15,000 Americans have ALS. Generally, the disease occurs between ages 55 and 75. According to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet, some studies suggest military veterans are more likely to develop ALS. Ninety percent or more of ALS cases are considered sporadic, with no clear risk factors or family history. About 5-10% of cases are familial (genetic) ALS, and specific gene mutations have been identified as the cause.
What people with ALS have to say.
Marie-France Bru demonstrates the use of a cheek switch and custom virtual keyboards to manipulate her computer back in 2005.