"ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] is a motor disease. We call it a motor neuron disease because patients usually come in with painless weakness, and [then they come back with] progressive weakness, and it's just a gradual damage to the nerves that go to your muscles," said Dr. Marie Walker from Rockford Spine Center.
ALS works quickly and is often deadly. "Generally [a patient has] two to five years of life expectancy once they're diagnosed," says Sharpe.
"We don't really know what causes it," says Dr. Walker.
"There are some clusters [of ALS sufferers] in Southern Illinois," says Julie Sharpe, Executive Director of the ALS Association Greater Chicago Chapter. There is also a cluster of ALS patients in Rockford. One theory as to why is that it could be due to an environmental factor in the area.
Sharpe questions whether it's any of the following components: "Is it profession based? Is it because there's an environmental component? Is it lifestyle choice? Is it [from] playing sports?"
"There really has been very little research done in the last decade," Dr. Walker states. "There's only one medication that's come out. There's no cure. It's universally fatal. It's really a devastating disease."
Both Dr. Walker and Sharpe hope the Ice Bucket Challenge continues to raise money for more research.