Signs and symptoms of ALS include trouble walking, difficulty holding the head up, and weakness in the hands, legs, feet or ankles, according to Mayo Clinic. Other signs include the inability to do daily tasks, slurred speech, trouble swallowing, and twitching in the tongue, arms and shoulders.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis often begins in the hands, feet, arms and legs, Mayo Clinic reports. From there, the muscle weakness begins to affect other parts of the body, and chewing, speaking and breathing may become more difficult. Most ALS patients do not have problems with their bowels or bladder control. Thinking and sensory perception are not affected either.
ALS is a progressive disorder that, as of 2015, cannot be reversed, Mayo Clinic states. Treatment focuses on slowing the disease's progression and usually includes medication, a variety of therapies, and psychological and social support.
The only drug approved in the United States for treating ALS, as of June 2015, is riluzole, which slows down the progression of the disease in some patients, Mayo Clinic states. Patients who take riluzole do report side effects, consisting primarily of dizziness, gastrointestinal issues and changes in liver function.
Physicians also prescribe therapy to help patients breathe better or physical therapy to help with mobility and other tasks, Mayo Clinic explains. Speech therapists help patients find alternative ways of communicating once the disease affects their ability to talk.