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Cognitive disease correlated with brain injury rises in veterans

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has been making big news after the high-profile diagnosis of several professional athletes. North Carolina military members may find this condition particularly disconcerting, considering the increasing rates of ALS among military veterans. Although researchers are not yet sure why veterans are twice as likely to develop this serious condition that can be caused by brain injury, experts and advocates alike are reaching out to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the condition.

Statistics show that individuals who were deployed during Gulf War efforts in the early 1990's are twice as likely as other troops to develop ALS. Still, the condition remains relatively rare, with just about 30,000 sufferers nationwide. Neurologists and epidemiological experts say that ALS shows increased incidents throughout all branches of the military, regardless of deployment location or length. The amount of time served is also not a factor.

ALS is not a gentle disease. Victims often retain their cognitive ability, even as their brain condition robs them of their motor skills. ALS ultimately steals patients' abilities to control their muscles, resulting in total paralysis and ultimately death.

Victims who suffer from ALS often do not realize that they have the disease until it has advanced. Neurologists cannot rely on a single test for the disease, but rather have to puzzle out the causes for many patients' symptoms. Causes, prevention and treatment remain largely unknown, even though the disease was identified as early as 1969.

Scores of ALS patients benefit from the high-tech medical facilities that are located right here in North Carolina. This state is among the cutting-edge research locations for examining the causes of the condition. However, it is not always easy for patients who need treatment to receive it, especially if employers or other agencies are unwilling to provide compensation.

ALS victims whose injuries were caused by another party may benefit from the services of a North Carolina attorney. These professionals can provide additional information about recovering damages associated with catastrophic personal injury.

Source:  News & Observer, "More vets suffer from ALS, but the VA moves effectively to help" Martha Quillin, Mar. 08, 2014

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