Higher rates of ALS

Life & Health

An increasing number of military veterans are being diagnosed with ALS.

John Hartwell never imagined years after serving his country he might wind up like this.

He says, “I was in the Air Force from September 1971 to September 1975.”

It started with hand cramps in 2015 and then twitching in his arms. John was eventually diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.

Doctor Ashok Verma at the Miami VA says the incidence of ALS in war veterans is double that of the general public.

Dr. Verma adds, “When people looked into ALS who have served in the Persian Gulf War it was approximately twice as common to the general population.”

That also applied to those who served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. But what’s the cause?

Dr. Verma says, “It may be environmental toxicants, for example, exposure to oil wells, burning fumes.”

John isn’t sure if there’s a link between his service and ALS. but since losing the use of his arms he is learning to adapt.

Hartwell says, “I am great with a mouse with my toes, actually it’s really easy.”

He relies on his wife Linda to feed him but has not lost his sense of humor.

In the meantime, John is participating in clinical trials, hoping to shed light on the battle against ALS.

Currently, the life span of a patient with ALS is three to five years.

There are two FDA-approved medications for ALS but Dr. Verma says the effects are modest.

That’s why finding a cure is so urgent.

He says any veteran diagnosed with a-l-s should contact the VA system and get enrolled.

John also recommends calling the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

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