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What Is Als?



Courtesy of PGWVET@Yuku

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease - a chronic and rapidly progressive disease that attacks brain cells that control the muscles. As these cells die, the muscles weaken and shrink, become paralyzed. First affected are voluntary muscles (legs, arms), then involuntary muscles, (diaphragm, heart). The brain loses its ability to communicate with the muscles, but thought processes remain intact.

ALS is non-contagious, adult-onset and rare among individuals under 45 years of age. There is no known cure for ALS.

The VA and DOD funded a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding ALS among veterans, which was published in September 2003. The study examined over 2.5 million cases. The scientists concluded those who served in the Persian Gulf War are almost twice as likely to develop ALS as those who did not serve in the Gulf War Theater.

A second study, done by Dr. Robert Haley at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, also published in September 2003, concluded that Gulf War veterans were more than twice as likely to suffer with ALS as the general population, but also that the rate of ALS among veterans increased with each passing year.

Notable from both studies: veterans who developed ALS after serving in Southwest Asia were frequently younger than the expected age of ALS patients.

On September 23, 2008 the research and advocates recently prompted VA Secretary James Peake to grant full access to lifetime health care, disability and death benefits to all veterans suffering from ALS, regardless of when or where they served. Veterans groups called the new regulations, put in place last month, unprecedented for granting full benefits for a disease with no clear cause to all veterans, with no time limit on claims.

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