Weakness of your hands and feet, muscle twitches or cramps, slurred speech or difficulty with daily activities may be symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. More commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, it is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects the neurons that control voluntary muscle movement. Fortunately, ALS is not very common. There are only about 5,000 new diagnoses in the United States, including Pennsylvania, every year.

Unfortunately, when the disease occurs, it can progress very quickly. Though some people can live with ALS for 10 years or more, your life expectancy after symptoms begin is typically only about three to five years. The deterioration of your function from ALS can negatively affect your ability to work. This, combined with the likelihood of death. makes ALS a qualifying condition for Social Security Disability benefits.

ALS is a mysterious disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers generally do not know what causes it, except in 5% to 10% of cases in which it is hereditary. Treatment options center more on slowing the progression of symptoms. There is no way to reverse the damage.

Symptoms of ALS typically begin in the extremities, i.e., the hands and feet, and progress inward. Over time, ALS affects the muscles that control breathing, chewing and swallowing. It is often necessary to place a feeding tube to prevent malnutrition and dehydration. Respiratory failure resulting from paralysis of the muscles used in breathing is the most common cause of death in ALS patients.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.