A diagnosis of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, can be challenging for patients and their families. A neurodegenerative disease, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 new cases are diagnosed  in the United States each year.

Symptoms usually develop after age 50, but can occur in younger people. Breathing or swallowing muscles may be the first affected. It usually affects one part of the body first, such as the arm or hand, and an increasing loss of muscle strength and coordination makes it impossible to do routine tasks such as climbing stairs, lifting items or getting out of a chair. It does not affect the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch) and rarely affects bladder or bowel function, eye movement, or a person's ability to think or reason.

Other symptoms include:

  • Choking, drooling and gagging
  • Head drop due to weakness of the neck muscles
  • Muscle cramps and contractions (fasciculations)
  • Paralysis
  • Slow or abnormal speech patterns (slurring of words)
  • Voice changes, hoarseness
  • Weight loss