What are the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Early symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) involve weaknesses of peripheral motor control. People with ALS will begin to have difficulty moving their hands and feet. They may have trouble speaking and eating. They can experience muscle cramps and twitching throughout their body. As ALS progresses, difficulties with moving and speaking become more severe. ALS causes problems with breathing, and often kills through respiratory failure. It is also associated with neurological conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

When the symptoms for ALS first begins, the symptoms are hard to notice. Some experience muscle stiffness or weakness, others slur their speech or become clumsier or usual.

Which symptoms show up first depends on which muscles are affected. When the disease affects upper motor neurons, people will experience slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing and general clumsiness. When it affects the lower motor neurons, muscles in a particular part of the body-such as the hand or foot-will be affected. Eventually of all of the muscles in the body will be affected, resulting in total paralysis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.