Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — Lou Gehrig's disease, and rarely Charcot disease—was a neurodegenerative disorder with various causes. ALS is characterised by muscle spasticity, rapidly progressive weakness due to muscle wasting. This results in difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing. The disease usually starts around the age of 60, except in cases that are directly inherited when the usual age of onset is around 50.
About 5 to 10% of cases are directly inherited from a person's parents. ALS is the most common of the five types of motor neuron disease.
The average survival from onset to death is three to four years. Only 4% survive longer than 10 years, although rare cases survive 50 years or more. Most die from respiratory failure.
Description of the disease date back to at least 1824 by Charles Bell. In 1869 the connection between the symptoms and the underlying neurological problems were first described by Jean-Martin Charcot who in 1974 began using the term amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It became well known in the United States when it affected a famous baseball player by the name of Lou Gehrig.
In August 2014, a challenge went viral online which was commonly known as the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge". A contestant will fill a bucket full of ice and water; they will then state who nominated them to do the challenge and will nominate three other individuals of their choice to take part in it. The contestant then dumps the bucket of ice and water onto themselves. The contestant should then donate US $10 (or a similar amount in their local currency) to ALS research at the ALS Association, or Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK. Any contestant who refuses to have the ice and water dumped on them is expected to donate US $100 to ALS research. As of August 25, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $79.7 million for the ALS Association, compared to $2.5 million raised over the same period in 2013.