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ALS Awareness Month
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ALS Awareness Month is a campaign to spread awareness of and raise funds for research for a cure for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

See Also:
►  International Observances
►  Awareness days
►  List of environmental dates
►  List of commemorative months
►  Health Awareness Days
►  Lists of holidays
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Canada
In Canada, June has been declared as ALS Awareness Month by the Canadian Minister of Health.

United States
In the United States, the campaign is observed every year in the month of May. During this month, the ALS Association sponsors the National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference and leads a delegation of people with ALS, their caregivers and other advocates to Capitol Hill to urge legislators to support measures to help find treatments and a cure.

Postage stamp
In 2008, The ALS Association, in association with the United States Postal Service, created a commemorative official U.S. postage stamp to promote ALS Awareness Month.

Individual states

Ohio
On January 13, 2012, the 129th General Assembly of the U.S. state of Ohio designated the month of May as ALS Awareness Month for the state.
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What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also referred to as motor neurone disease in some Commonwealth of Nations countries and as Lou Gehrig's disease in the United States – is a debilitating disease with varied etiology characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and fasciculations, muscle spasticity, difficulty speaking (dysarthria), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and difficulty breathing (dyspnea). ALS is the most common of the five motor neuron diseases.

Signs and symptoms

The disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body caused by the degeneration of the upper and lower motor neurons. Unable to function, the muscles weaken and atrophy. Individuals affected by the disorder may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement, although bladder and bowel sphincters and the muscles responsible for eye movement are usually, but not always, spared until the terminal stages of the disease.

Cognitive function is generally spared for most patients, although some (about 5%) also have frontotemporal dementia. A higher proportion of patients (30–50%) also have more subtle cognitive changes which may go unnoticed, but are revealed by detailed neuropsychological testing. Sensory nerves and the autonomic nervous system are generally unaffected, meaning the majority of people with ALS will maintain hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.

Initial symptoms

The earliest symptoms of ALS are typically obvious weakness and/or muscle atrophy. Other presenting symptoms include muscle fasciculation (twitching), cramping, or stiffness of affected muscles; muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg; and/or slurred and nasal speech. The parts of the body affected by early symptoms of ALS depend on which motor neurons in the body are damaged first. About 75% of people contracting the disease experience "limb onset" ALS, i.e., first symptoms in the arms or legs. Patients with the leg onset form may experience awkwardness when walking or running or notice that they are tripping or stumbling, often with a "dropped foot" which drags gently along the ground. Arm-onset patients may experience difficulty with tasks requiring manual dexterity such as buttoning a shirt, writing, or turning a key in a lock. Occasionally, the symptoms remain confined to one limb for a long period of time or for the whole length of the illness; this is known as monomelic amyotrophy.

About 25% of cases are "bulbar onset" ALS. These patients first notice difficulty speaking clearly or swallowing. Speech may become slurred, nasal in character, or quieter. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing and loss of tongue mobility. A smaller proportion of patients experience "respiratory onset" ALS, where the intercostal muscles that support breathing are affected first. A small proportion of patients may also present with what appears to be frontotemporal dementia, but later progresses to include more typical ALS symptoms.

Over time, patients experience increasing difficulty moving, swallowing (dysphagia), and speaking or forming words (dysarthria). Symptoms of upper motor neuron involvement include tight and stiff muscles (spasticity) and exaggerated reflexes (hyperreflexia) including an overactive gag reflex. An abnormal reflex commonly called Babinski's sign also indicates upper motor neuron damage. Symptoms of lower motor neuron degeneration include muscle weakness and atrophy, muscle cramps, and fleeting twitches of muscles that can be seen under the skin (fasciculations). Around 15–45% of patients experience pseudobulbar affect, also known as "emotional lability", which consists of uncontrollable laughter, crying or smiling, attributable to degeneration of bulbar upper motor neurons resulting in exaggeration of motor expressions of emotion. To be diagnosed with ALS, patients must have signs and symptoms of both upper and lower motor neuron damage that cannot be attributed to other causes.

Feeding and nutrition

Patients and caregivers can learn from speech-language pathologists and nutritionists how to plan and prepare numerous small meals throughout the day that provide enough calories, fiber, and fluid and how to avoid foods that are difficult to swallow. Patients may begin using suction devices to remove excess fluids or saliva and prevent choking. Occupational therapists can assist with recommendations for adaptive equipment to ease the physical task of self-feeding and/or make food choice recommendations that are more conducive to their unique deficits and abilities. When patients can no longer get enough nourishment from eating, doctors may advise inserting a feeding tube into the stomach. The use of a feeding tube also reduces the risk of choking and pneumonia that can result from inhaling liquids into the lungs. The tube is not painful and does not prevent patients from eating food orally if they wish.

Researchers have stated that "ALS patients have a chronically deficient intake of energy and recommended augmentation of energy intake." Both animal and human research suggest that ALS patients should be encouraged to consume as many calories as possible and not to restrict their calorie intake.

continue reading about ALS at wikipedia

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See also
► Awareness days
► International observance
► List of commemorative months
► List of environmental dates
► List of health awareness days
► Lists of holidays
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References
  • Aglukkaq, Leona (Minister of Health, Government of Canada) (June 2010). "ALS Awareness Month (Lou Gehrig's Disease)". Health Canada. Retrieved March 30, 2012.

Further reading
  • Cosgrove, Alicia (May 6, 2011). "May is ALS Awareness Month". Northwest Observer. Retrieved March 30, 2012.

External links

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  • This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses some material from Wikipedia/ / and other related pages. 
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