I think like most people we are ignorant until we actually witness or are able to put context around something. I am still ignorant to ALS, although I have seen what it can do to a family.
There are many of horrible diseases that can afflict anyone, ALS is one of these. However if you do read this, then maybe like me you did not even know about its existance. Maybe the internet can help spread the ‘word’ about ALS and maybe we can accelerate a cure for such a devastating disease.
This is where Wikipedia comes in (so copyright Wikipedia from now on in)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Maladie de Charcot) is a progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. In the United States, the condition is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the New York Yankees baseball star who was diagnosed with the disease in 1939 and died from it two years later; today, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is likely the best-known living ALS patient. As a motor neuron disease, the disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body as both the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, develop fasciculations (twitches) because of denervation, and eventually atrophy because of that denervation. The patient may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement except for the eyes.
Cognitive function is generally spared except in certain situations such as when ALS is associated with frontotemporal dementia. However, there are reports of more subtle cognitive changes of the frontotemporal type in many patients when detailed neuropsychological testing is employed. Sensory nerves and the autonomic nervous system, which controls functions like sweating, generally remain functional.