Health and Wellness: ALS

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department
Special to Dallas County News and Perry Chief

ALS is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the baseball player who died from it. The acronym ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. According to Harvard Medical School, it is a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. In most persons, thinking is not affected in early stages, although dementia can occur as ALS progresses.

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reports that most ALS patients are diagnosed between age 40 and 70.

ALS can be frustrating for the person diagnosed, and for their family and friends. Most people with ALS have trouble speaking clearly and making themselves understood, even when their thought processes are clear.

Special equipment and technology advancements have improved the life quality of ALS patients. Equipment can help with communication, transferring from chair to bed, eating, using a computer, and traveling in a vehicle. Assistive devices for communication, mobility and safety are available from the ALS Association, and Easter Seals; and there are local contractors who widen doorways for wheelchairs and reconfigure bathrooms.

For support and information, contact our local ALS Association in West Des Moines, 515-369-2572 or Dallas County Health Navigation at 515-993-3750.