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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive degeneration of nerve cells that control muscle movements. The disease, the most common motor neuron disease among adults, became known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the New York Yankee's Hall of Fame first baseman. Gehrig's career ended in 1939 because of the condition. About 30,000 patients in this country have the disease and about 5,000 are diagnosed with ALS every year.

ALS tends to strike in mid-life between the ages of 40 and 60, but others can develop the disease. Men are about one-and-a-half times more likely to have the disease than women. In most cases, it occurs at random with no family history of the disease.

ALS attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord, causing the body's motor neurons to waste away. The result is progressive muscle weakness and in coordination, causing difficulty with mobility, speaking, swallowing and breathing.

Proper medication and physical therapy, however, can help control symptoms and allow patients to lead more independent lives.

Our Approach to ALS

Our mission is to help patients with ALS live more independently and reduce suffering by identifying the best treatments to control symptoms. Our team includes neurologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists and social workers, as well as occupational, physical, speech and respiratory therapists, and a dietitian – all working together to give each patient the most comprehensive, effective care possible.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-neurology

    Best in California and No. 2 in the nation for neurology & neurosurgery

  • ALS certified treatment center of excellence

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.