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ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?

ALS is a condition that damages the cells of your motor nerves. The motor nerves direct your muscles to move. These muscles gradually weaken and waste away. Over time, ALS may lead to total paralysis, including the muscles for breathing. It is a progressive disease that becomes fatal over time. ALS is also called Lou Gehrig disease.

What increases my risk for ALS?

The cause of ALS is not known. Any of the following can increase your risk:

What are the signs and symptoms of ALS?

The early symptoms of ALS include muscle weakness, tightness or stiffness, and cramps. These symptoms occur in a leg or arm. Early symptoms may instead include slurred or nasal speech, or difficulty chewing or swallowing. Symptoms worsen and spread to other parts of your body over time. You may also have any of the following:

How is ALS diagnosed?

ALS cannot be diagnosed with one test. Your healthcare providers may do several tests to see if another condition is causing your symptoms. You may need any of the following tests:

How is ALS treated?

ALS cannot be cured. Treatment focuses on trying to ease the symptoms and slow the rate that the disease progresses.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What should I tell my family and friends?

Make your wishes about your care and quality of life known. You may need to speak to a social worker to know all of your options. Speak to family members about your wishes. Write them down. You can change your mind any time during the process.

Where can I find more information?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

When should I call my doctor or neurologist?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.