U.S. Air Force Veteran Shares His Story of Living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Recognizing military veterans living with ALS in honor of Veterans Day.
Why does military life put our nation’s Veterans in harms way – but not through combat – but instead a horrifying disease that weakens muscles – sometimes to the point of paralysis and trapping people inside their bodies.
I’m referring to Lou Gehrig’s disease also called amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Even to this day, there’s been no reason given why service to our country could lead to an increased risk of the disease in veterans.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – is a rapidly progressive, neurodegenerative disease.1 Those living with ALS eventually lose their ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow and eat.1
- ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that can progress rapidly without treatment.1
- An estimated 5,000-6,000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS each year.[iii],[iv]
- Initial symptoms like muscle weakness, loss of balance, and slurred speech can be subtle at first, and because of this, it can take up to 12 to 14 months to be diagnosed with ALS.[v],[vi]
- The majority of people with ALS succumb to the disease two to five years after diagnosis, but disease progression can vary significantly across the patient population.[vii]
ALS can affect people of all races and ethnic backgrounds, but did you know that Veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS than those who haven’t served in the military?[i],[ii] This Veterans Day, we honor those who have served in the U.S. armed forces and thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our country.
I had the extreme honor of speaking with Juan Reyes, a U.S. Air Force Veteran living with ALS and a MTPA Patient Ambassador, to share his story of living with ALS, discuss how he’s helping to spread awareness of this devastating disease among Veterans, and how others living with the disease can help support the ALS community. Along with his wife of 33 years, Meg.
To learn more, visit ShareYourALSStory.com.
[i] “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, June 2013, https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Amyotrophic-Lateral-Sclerosis-ALS-Fact-Sheet.
[ii] Weisskopf M, Cudkoicz M and Johnson N. (2015). Military service and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in a population
based cohort. Epidemiology, 26(6), 831–838. http://doi.org/10.1097/EDE.0000000000000376.
[iii] Mehta P, Kaye W, Bryan L, et al. (2016). Prevalence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — United States, 2012– 2013.
[iv] Marin B, Boumediene F, Logroscino G, et al. (2016). Variation in worldwide incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a meta analysis. Int J Epidemiol, 00:1-18.
[v] Ganesalingam, J. & Bowser, R. The application of biomarkers in clinical trials for motor neuron disease. Biomark Med. 4, 281– 97 (2010).
[vi] Brooks BR. (2000). Risk factors in the early diagnosis of ALS: North American epidemiological studies. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Other Motor Neuron Disorders, 1:sup1, S19-S26.
[vii] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Information Page.
https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als-information-page. Accessed Aug. 2022.