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Stephen Hawking Admitted to Hospital


Physicist Stephen Hawking has reportedly been admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Hawking, 67, is the author of "A Brief History of Time." He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) early in his career. He is now almost completely paralyzed and speaks through a computer-generated voice synthesizer. Hawking still teaches as a professor of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is often called Lou Gehrig's disease in the United States. It is a rapidly progressive and always fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

ALS causes weakness with a wide range of disabilities. Eventually, all muscles under voluntary control are affected. Patients lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, patients lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms. However, about 10 percent of ALS patients survive for 10 or more years.

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The disease usually does not impair a person's mind or intelligence, but patients may have problems with depression.

ALS does not affect a person's ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch. Patients usually maintain control of eye muscles and bladder and bowel functions, although in the late stages of the disease most patients will need help getting to and from the bathroom.

It is estimated that 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide. It affects people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Most often it strikes people between 40 and 60 years of age, but younger and older people also can develop the disease. Men are affected more often than women.

National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke