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Neurology

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or more commonly known as, ALS, is a progressive disease in which nerves in the brain and spinal cord degenerate over time. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their deterioration. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost.

Symptoms of ALS are variable from person to person and can progress at different rates. The onset is typically gradual, that can start in the muscles, decreasing function in the arms and legs, or starting in the mouth and throat, hindering functions like speaking and swallowing.

Diagnosing ALS may be difficult as there is not just one specific test that can be used to determine the diagnosis. Instead, there are multitudes of tests and procedures that can be done to slowly eliminate similar neurodegenerative diseases. These tests may include: Electromyography (EMG), muscle biopsy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), genetic tests, Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV), spinal tap, blood and urine collection, and neurological examinations.

Read more about ALS in An Introduction to ALS for Patients and Caregivers.

Additional Reading

You can find more information on ALS at the following sites.