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ALS is a disease that affects motor neurons, which control voluntary muscle movement. As upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, the brain is unable to control muscle movement. Muscles waste away. In late stages of the disease, patients can become fully paralyzed.

Early symptoms often include persistent muscle weakness in the arms, legs and hands; difficulty speaking, swallowing or breathing.

There is no known cause of ALS.

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ALS is difficult to diagnose because there are no definite disease markers: Typically, ALS is diagnosed after all other diseases are ruled out.

There is no cure or effective treatment.

Eighty per cent of people diagnosed with ALS die within two to five years, unable to breathe or swallow.

Statistically, men are slightly more likely to develop ALS than women.

Most people who have ALS are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70.

Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians currently have ALS.

Source: The ALS Society of Canada; United States ALS Association

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