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What is an early warning sign of ALS?

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Quick Answer

Early symptoms of ALS include muscle stiffness and tightness, fasciculation, cramps, muscle weakness in an arm or a leg, slurred or nasal speech, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. These symptoms can be over-looked initially but become suspicious as they progress, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Full Answer

ALS is a motor neuron disease that attacks the nerves responsible for voluntary muscle contraction. Normal contraction begins with a signal transmission from the upper motor neurons in the brain to the lower motor neurons in the spine. Lower motor neurons relay this signal to the intended muscle, which causes it to contract, explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

ALS damages and destroys both upper and lower motor neurons by interrupting the transmission of signals from the brain to the muscles. This causes muscle weakness, fasciculation and atrophy, explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

As the disease progresses, all voluntary muscle control is lost, and patients eventually require ventilation. Most ALS patients die from respiratory failure within three to five years after the onset of symptoms, but about 10 percent survive beyond 10 years, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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