What are ALS symptoms?

Early ALS symptoms often go unnoticed, and may mimic other illnesses (neurological or others), or in certain cases, simply resemble the signs of aging. The symptoms that develop, the order in which they appear and the speed at which muscles deteriorate vary from one person to another.

ALS Symptoms can include:

  •  weight loss and fatigue
  •  muscle stiffness or numbness
  •  muscle weakness and atrophy, cramps and involuntary twitching of muscle fibers
  •  flaccidity (decreased muscle tone)
  •  difficulty swallowing
  •  difficulty or inability to articulate speech
  •  shortness of breath (even at rest)
  •  emotional lability (decreased ability to control laughing or crying)
  •  decreased or absent reflexes (hyporeflexia) OR
  •  increased or hyperactive reflexes  (hyperreflexia)

The disease can initially affect the muscles in the upper or lower extremities, or the muscles in the throat or thoracic area. As amyotrophic lateral sclerosis progresses, more muscles become affected in different areas of the body, including in many cases the respiratory muscles, which slowly begin to degenerate.

Through it all however, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis does not affect the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, nor does it normally affect the eye muscles, heart, bladder, bowel or sexual muscles. In some cases, people living with ALS develop cognitive difficulties and behavioral changes.

More information about the signs and ALS symptoms can be found in the  Guide for People Living with ALS.