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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness due to muscle wasting. This results in difficulty speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of ALS do not appear until after age 50, but they can be seen in younger people. Major symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle contractions
  • Paralysis
  • Voice changes, hoarseness
  • Weight loss
  • Speech problems


In about 10% of cases, the disease is caused by a genetic defect. However, the cause is unknown in the remaining cases.


There is no known cure for ALS. Treatments to control other symptoms include:

  • Baclofen or diazepam for spasticity that interferes with daily activities
  • Trihexyphenidyl or amitriptyline for people with problems swallowing on their own