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Social media challenge brings awareness about disabling disease

You've probably seen the videos on your Facebook newsfeed or heard about it on Twitter: people from across the nation dumping buckets of ice water over their heads then challenging their friends to do the same. Called the Ice Bucket Challenge. it's a trend that has gone viral in the last few months. But unlike some trends, this one has an important message behind it.

Although the Ice Bucket Challenge can be associated with any charity -- those who participate can donate to a charity of their choosing -- the current challenge that is dominating social media at this time is spotlighting one particular charity: the ALS Association, which is working toward a cure for a particularly disabling disease.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS for short, is a "progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord." At current estimates, the disease affects roughly 30,000 Americans and is diagnosed in about 5,600 people every year. The disease causes nerves cells, which send messages from the brain to muscles in the body, to die off, leading to muscle weakness and eventually paralysis.

The disease often leaves a person physically disabled and in need of in-home care for the rest of their life. Thankfully, this disabling disease is listed on the Compassionate Allowances list, meaning a person is eligible for disability benefits.

As we said above, there is no cure for ALS, though there is one FDA approved drug that can slow the progression of the disease. With the help of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS Association has collected $31.5 million in donations that will be used toward research and hopefully eventually a cure.

Sources:  The ALS Association, "What is ALS?" Accessed Aug. 20, 2014

The ALS Association, "Facts You Should Know," Accessed Aug. 20, 2014

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