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Upper Motor Neuron Degeneration

  • muscle stiffness or rigidity
  • emotional lability (decreased ability to control emotions)
  • excessive fatigue
  • dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • dysarthria (a speech disorder caused by impairment of the muscles
    used for speaking. Speech is slurred, slow, and difficult to produce)
  • hyperreflexia (increased or ‘brisk’ reflexes)
  • gait spasticity (stiffened legs with toes that drag and catch when walking)

Lower Motor Neuron Degeneration

  • muscle weakness and atrophy
  • involuntary contraction of muscle fibres
  • muscle cramps
  • weakened reflexes
  • flaccidity (decreased muscle tone)
  • difficulty swallowing
  • disordered articulation
  • shortness of breath at rest

Early Symptons

ALS usually becomes apparent either in the legs, the arms, the throat or the upper chest area. Some people begin to trip and fall, some may notice muscle loss in their hands and arms and some find it hard to swallow and slur their speech.

ALS is difficult to diagnose. There is no specific test available that will either rule out or confirm the presence of ALS.

Diagnosis is usually made through a ‘diagnosis of exclusions’. Neurologists conduct a number of tests, thereby ruling out other disorders or illnesses that may cause similar symptoms, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or lyme disease. If a person tests negative for all these tests but the symptoms continue to worsen, ALS is often the reason.