It has been a couple years now since the Ice Bucket Challenge took us by storm. Still, many of the people who participated in the social media phenomenon know very little about the videos’ arch nemesis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS, as it’s typically called, is a degenerative disease that affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The death of motor neurons leads to a lack of muscle movement and then the muscles start wasting away. This leads to a loss of movement, and eventually the ability to even swallow or breathe.
Yet even with this basic knowledge of the disease, there is still mystery surrounding it. Here are seven things you probably didn’t know about ALS.
1. Stephen Hawking’s case is very rare
One of the most famous people with ALS is world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Interestingly enough, Hawking’s story is not indicative of the common ALS case.
As the ALS Association explains, the average lifespan for someone diagnosed with the disorder is two to five years. Only 20% make it past the five year mark, and only about 10% survive a decade. Hawking, now 75 years old, has survived for more than five decades.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also commonly diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70. Hawking, on the other hand, was diagnosed when he was in his 20s.