What Are the Symptoms of ALS Disease?


Quick Answer

The symptoms of ALS over the course of the disease include muscle weakness, muscle twitching, inability to use arms and legs, difficulty speaking, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing, according to the ALS Association. Initial symptoms vary from person to person in addition to life expectancy and the progression of the condition, which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease.

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What Are the Symptoms of ALS Disease?
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Full Answer

The ALS Association explains that the condition's initial symptoms may seem slight at first. One patient may experience tripping over carpet edges. Another person may start to slur his speech. Yet another patient could start to lose strength in the arms. When the disease first affects the limbs, doctors refer to the condition as "limb-onset ALS." The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reveals that initial speech problems indicate "bulbar-onset ALS."

As the disease progresses, muscle weakness usually occurs in one or more areas, including the hands, arms, legs, neck and muscles that control breathing. The ALS Association indicates that twitching and cramping typically occurs in the hands and feet. Speech patterns may change when patients slur words, develop "thick" speech or fail to project their voice.

Regardless of the initial symptoms, ALS is a fatal disease in 100 percent of cases as of October 2014. Most people die of respiratory failure within three to five years of a diagnosis, whereas 10 percent of those with ALS live more than 10 years, according to NINDS.

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