Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, displays varying early symptoms such as tripping, dropping things, fatigue, slurred speech, muscle cramps, twitches, laughing and crying, states the ALS Association. Initial symptoms usually begin on one side of the body, especially in a hand, the tongue or the face, according to WebMD.
The onset of the disease varies greatly from patient to patient, and the pattern of progression is also unpredictable. Later symptoms of paralysis and muscular weakness are common, explains the ALS Association. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients often experience uncontrollable laughing or crying in early stages. ALS develops gradually, affecting only motor neurons.
Muscular weakness is the predominant symptom, appearing in 60% of those afflicted, says the ALS Association. The patient eventually requires ventilator support as breathing muscles become compromised. Additionally, further deterioration in walking, speaking and eating can result in serious injuries, exasperated illnesses or death, states WebMD. The ailment typically leads to mortality within three to five years, although some people endure for 10 years or more.
Only 1.5 out of 100,000 people acquire amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, generally during middle age or later, with men getting the disease at a slightly higher rate than women, notes WebMD. ALS is a rare disorder. A number of treatable conditions mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, requiring extensive testing for correct diagnosis.