Generally, the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis includes muscle weakness, which gradually descends into paralysis and, eventually, difficulty in speaking, eating and breathing, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The progression of ALS can differ for each individual, with symptoms occurring at varying rates of momentum.
Early stages of ALS can manifest as either weak, soft muscles or stiff, tight and spastic muscles that cramp and twitch, states the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Individuals in this stage may feel tired and have problems with grip, balance and speech, and some may find a cane or leg brace helpful.
Symptoms increase and worsen during the middle stages of ALS, explains the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The muscles continue to deteriorate and can become paralyzed. The individual is not able to drive, may not be able to stand back up after falling and might have trouble eating and breathing. Bouts of uncontrolled and inappropriate emotional displays may occur. At this stage, individuals may find feeding tubes, noninvasive ventilation systems, wheelchairs and medications to be useful for coping.
Late stages of ALS exhibit widespread paralysis. The individual experiences severe difficulty with breathing and eating and isn't able to eat and drink without a feeding tube, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. People at this stage require advanced medical support and around-the-clock care.