Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS, and no one knows why

Lou Gehrig’s Disease – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – causes the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and muscles. As a result, the body experiences an eventual weakening of the muscles, respiratory failure, and death.

While the cause of the disease is not known in most cases. It affects military veterans twice as much, and no one knows why.

Veterans ALS

From a 2013 ALS Association Report.

It doesn’t matter which era the veterans served. From World War II through the Gulf War and even in peacetime, multiple studies show that the rate at which vets develop the condition is still twice as high as non-vets. In fact the evidence is so convincing, the Department of Veterans Affairs has assumed since 2008 that a veterans’ ALS is automatically service-connected.

Harvard University, The National Institute of Health, DoD, the VA, and the University of Texas have all done studies that show the condition is twice as likely to occur in veterans. None of those studies show why.

Anecdotes compiled by CNN tell the stories vets from different eras and different branches.

David Masters, an airman serving in Kuwait in 2004, was training to be a bodybuilder. Six years later, he had full-blown ALS and was in a wheelchair. Carlo Russo, a Marine photojournalist in the Vietnam era was stationed in Hawaii. By age 55, he was diagnosed with ALS. Tim Hoyt, another Vietnam era veteran, spent two years in Germany and he was diagnosed at age 65.

Veteran ALS

David Masters in Kuwait in 2004. (Family photo via CNN)

The prognosis for someone diagnosed with ALS is to survive two-to five-years after their diagnosis, depending on the spread of the condition. No known cure exists and what doctors and researchers do know about the disease is very little. Risk factors include smoking, and being a white male over age 60. The Harvard study shows a 60 percent increased risk of ALS for military veterans.

The ALS Association also noted that the condition is rare, occurring in 2 of every 100,00 people. Even though veterans are twice as likely to develop the condition, ALS still strikes a small minority, even among veterans.

TOP ARTICLES
Nigeria will spend a billion dollars to fight Boko Haram

Boko Haram, once one of the most feared groups in Africa, is still a problem. Nigeria, however, has decided they aren't putting up with them anymore.

ISIS may have obtained anti-tank missiles from the CIA

Somehow, ISIS has gotten a hold of weapons purchased by the CIA and Saudi Arabia and dispersed, without permission from either, to allied fighters.

How the Army plans to counter massive drone attacks

The United States military is experiencing more and more drone attacks in combat zones, and they have a plan to start shooting them down faster.

Marines want to swarm enemy defenses with hundreds of small boats

It looks like the Marine Corps is ready to get their own boats instead of borrowing them from the Navy all the time. Is this the end of water taxis?

This bearded Marine brings joy to the Corps

He's making a gear list. He's checking it twice. Gonna find out who's boot or grunt. Gunny Clause is coming on base. So stand at ease, kiddos.

This new device helps amputees manage phantom limb pain

Amira Idris designed a device helps amputees experiencing the phenomenon known as phantom limb pain (PLP) — and now she's giving the device to vets.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

With everything going on in the world, it's difficult to keep track of every story that pops up. Check the stories you may have missed this week.

This is why the U.S.military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

A common debate among gun enthusiasts revolves around why the U.S. chose to implement the 5.56mm N.A.T.O. round into service instead of the 7.62mm.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

Buy a comfy pair of flip flops — put Afghanistan to work. Buy your lady a sarong — put an Afghan girl through school. This is global democracy, step two.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 15

I hope you're ready for a Star Wars heavy meme cache this week. A lot happened since the last meme call, but c'mon... we know what you really care about.