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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressing disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

It is part of a group of diseases known as motor neuron disease, which is characterized by the degeneration and death of motor neuron cells.

ALS symptoms include the following:

  • Muscle twitching (known as fasciculation)
  • Muscle cramps
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or difficulty breathing (dyspnea
  • Muscle weakness, usually affecting one arm or leg first
  • Speech problems, such as slurred or abnormal speech patterns

ALS: what you should know

  • There is currently no cure for ALS. As the disease progresses, patients lose the ability to move, swallow or breathe on their own.
  • Although mental abilities are typically not affected, many patients experience depression or anxiety due to their rapid physical degeneration.
  • Because of the prognosis of ALS, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is critical. Some ALS symptoms can instead be caused by other conditions, including neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, a spinal tumor or herniated disc.

How can I get help for ALS?

  • If you have any of the above symptoms, contact your primary care doctor, especially if you have a family history of ALS.
  • If your primary care doctor recommends further testing, neuromuscular experts at Rush can help you obtain an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment. They also welcome people seeking second opinions for ALS.
  • Diagnostic tests for ALS may include the following:

Departments and programs that treat this condition