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Five Things You Need To Know About ALS

The #ALSIceBucketChallenge has millions of people giving themselves brain freeze for a good cause – to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

This lethal neurological disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects approximately 3,000 Canadians. According to ALS Canada, two out of 100,000 people aged 18 and older are diagnosed with the disease every year.

ALS causes motor neurons (nerve cells) to die. The brain eventually loses the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. This results in weakening and wasting of muscles, severely limited movement, and paralysis.

Sadly, there is no known cause or cure for this debilitating disease.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was created to raise awareness and funds for the battle towards a treatment and cure. When nominated, you are challenged to either give $100 to ALS or dump ice water on your head. Those who accept the challenge post a video of it to social media, tag it with #ALSIceBucketChallenge, and pass on the nomination. Most people do both.

With any viral event, it’s important to not lose sight of the message and neglect the original goal of the campaign – awareness and fundraising.

 Here are five things you need to know about ALS:

  1.  1. ALS can affect anyone, anywhere

ALS is a non-contagious disease that affects approximately 3,000 Canadians. According to ALS Canada two out of 100,000 people aged 18 and older are diagnosed each year.

About 10% of ALS cases are hereditary, with those affected having a unique gene that leads to the disease. But ALS can affect anyone, anywhere and occurs randomly in 90% of cases.

  1. 2. Early systems are vague and consistent with aging

At the onset, symptoms may be so vague that they are overlooked. Common early symptoms include tripping, dropping things, slurred speech, and muscle cramping, weakening, and twitching.

As the disease advances in the body, the muscles in the lower body become affected.

Weakness of the breathing muscles develops slowly over months or years. People living with the disease become progressively paralyzed due to deterioration of the upper and lower motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. However, not every person with ALS will experience all symptoms or have all areas of the body affected during their course of illness.

Eighty per cent of people with ALS die within two to five years of diagnosis – unable to breathe or swallow.

  1. 3. There is no known cause or cure

Although ALS has no known cause or cure, treatment can help manage symptoms and may delay the arrival of more serious symptoms. Depending on the specific needs of individuals, patients may receive dedicated care from a neurologist, psychologist, occupational and/or physical therapist, speech language pathologist, nutritionist, or other specialists as needed.

  1. 4. More research is needed

Although recent scientific research has resulted in new knowledge, more research is needed to develop effective therapies that slow the progression of the disease.

According to the ALS Society of Nova Scotia, research is currently being conducted in areas relating to genetic predispositions, viral or infectious agents, environmental toxins, and immunological changes.

  1. 5. Support is available

The ALS Society of Nova Scotia helps patients and their families find information, obtain funding for assistive equipment, navigate the health care system, and offers practical coping methods and peer support.

There is no charge for any of the services offered by the ALS Society of Nova Scotia. Their office is open for drop in visits and phone calls, as well as provincial home visits.

Nova Scotia Doctors Took the Challenge
As if your social feeds aren’t already flooded with #ALSIceBucketChallenge videos, here are two more to add to the stream! Dr. Shannon MacPhee, Dr. Lorraine Lewis, Dr. Erin Killorn, Dr. Michael Young, Dr. Gerard Corsten, and Dr. Jock Murray bravely accepted the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

The IWK emergency physicians nominated emergency chief Dr. David Petrie and QEII site emergency chief Dr. Sam Campbell – who fearlessly accepted the challenge.