Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurological disorder in which nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord slowly die. Over time, the disorder causes the patient to develop difficulty walking, speaking, eating, swallowing and breathing.
Symptoms of ALS include weakness in the legs, hands, face or tongue. As the motor neurons die and stop sending signals to the muscles, the weakness spreads to other parts of the body. The muscles become weaker and smaller, causing the patient to develop twitching and trouble using their hands and fingers.
ALS is diagnosed through a physical exam and analysis of medical history. Other tests may be needed, such as: an electromygram (EMG) to measure the ability of the nerves and muscles, nerve conduction studies to test nerve function, a muscle biopsy, CT and MRI scans, and blood tests.
Treatment for ALS includes physical and occupational therapy; some patients require speech therapy. There are also drugs available to help relieve certain systems. If you experience any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor.