The Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS: What's It All About?

By Intermountain Healthcare

Your social feeds have been crammed with the Ice Bucket Challenge lately, and you've been properly inundated with hilarious videos of celebs, personalities, and everyone in between pouring buckets of frigid water over their heads in the name of ALS. The campaign has raised over $22.9 million for the ALS Association, an astonishing feat and true testament to the power of social media.

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But what exactly is ALS? And why are we all freezing to fight it?

What is ALS?
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is a terminal neurological disorder with no proven treatment or cure. It's one of the most devastating disorders out there, characterized by progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain.

You might also hear it referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, which comes from a famous baseball player who died from the disease. Stephen Hawking, the internationally renowned physicist, also has ALS.

What are the Symptoms?
Patients who suffer from ALS initially experience weakness in one of their limbs that develops over a matter of days or, more commonly, a few weeks. Then, several weeks to months later, weakness develops in another limb.

As ALS progresses, more and more symptoms are noticed:

  • Twitching and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet
  • Loss of motor control in the hands and arms
  • Impairment in the use of the arms and legs
  • Tripping and falling
  • Dropping things
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying
  • Slurred or thick speech and difficulty in projecting the voice

Can you Treat it?
While there is no proven treatment for ALS, we can manage the symptoms. For most people with ALS, primary treatment may include physical, occupational, speech, respiratory, and nutritional therapies. Some medications and/or heat or whirlpool therapy may help to relieve muscle cramping. Exercise, although recommended in moderation, may help to maintain muscle strength and function.

The success of the Ice Bucket Challenge has brought over 453,210 new donors to the ALS Association, along with a whole new level of awareness to this disease.

Have you done the Ice Bucket Challenge yet? Share your video links in the comments below!