As we take time to honor the veterans who have served our country, it is important to remember that for many, the battle continues to rage long after they return home.
Men with any history of military service are at nearly a 60% greater risk of being diagnosed with ALS than men who did not serve in the military. The study by researchers at Harvard University's School of Public Health showed that military personnel have an increased risk regardless of when or where they served, and regardless of whether they experienced combat.
The United States and Canada offer benefits to veterans suffering from ALS. The US Department of Defense funds ALS research. A study by researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, MA pointed to the link between head trauma and ALS as one possible explanation as to why ALS has been diagnosed in military veterans at higher rates. Others have posited increased exertion or exposure to chemicals as potential causes.
The connection between ALS and military service is undeniable, but the reasons behind that connection remain, for the moment, unclear. As with so many of the other mysteries associated with ALS, we are left to wonder simply, why?
Now, there is a tool that might help us answer that question. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control launched the National ALS Registry, an online platform that collects, manages, and analyzes data about people with ALS. It is hoped that the registry will help answer some of the most fundamental questions about the disease, not only telling us why certain groups are more prone to develop ALS, but also providing researchers and scientists with critical information that will improve diagnosis and care, and speed up the development of treatments.
If you or a loved one have ALS, please join the registry today. Together, we can honor the bravery of veterans and ALS patients the world over by taking another step towards a cure.
If you want to learn more about the connection between ALS and the military, read this excellent paper written by the ALS Association.