Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) symptoms are typically mild at first, but worsen with time as the neurons degenerate. From the initial muscle difficulties, muscle weakness and atrophy progress until breathing is eventually affected as well. The diaphragm is a crucial muscle that allows our lungs to expand and collapse. As the disease progresses, the diaphragm weakens and respiratory support is often needed.

One of the most common first signs of ALS is muscle weakness in one limb that develops over a few days or weeks. After a few more weeks or months, muscle weakness may develop in another limb. In other cases, the initial symptoms may include difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

As the disease progresses, muscle weakness and atrophy spread throughout the body. Each case of ALS is different and symptoms can vary. The most common symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramps, twitching or weakness, especially in the hands or feet
  • Loss of control in the arms or hands
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Difficulty running or walking
  • Trips or falls
  • Dropping things
  • Difficulty with writing
  • Uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying
  • Slurred or thick speech and difficulty projecting the voice

As ALS progresses, symptoms can include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Paralysis