Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a terminal and progressive motor neuron disease. ALS specifically targets and kills the motor neurons responsible for controlling the vast majority of skeletal muscles in the human body, which eventually leads to respiratory failure and death.
A positive diagnosis of ALS is based primarily on a patient’s symptomatology as no test can currently provide a more conclusive assessment.
Unfortunately, there are many diseases whose symptoms resemble those observed in patients with ALS. Therefore, diseases such as cervical osteoarthritis, cervical hernias that compress the spinal cord, heavy metal poisoning, and some infectious diseases such as Lyme disease or syphilis, can delay a correct diagnosis of ALS.
As such, when ALS is suspected, it is common practice to rule out other diseases through a variety of tests including but not limited to lumbar punctures, MRIs, and electromyographic studies. In some cases, it might be necessary to perform a biopsy of muscle tissue in order to assuage any remaining doubts.
Often, the earliest symptoms of ALS are ignored or outright dismissed. Therefore, In an attempt to better understand this dreaded disease, we provide you with a list of the most common symptoms.
ALS is a syndrome with a varied evolution, and no two patients experience the same progression of symptoms. However, one of the earliest and most common signs of ALS is fatigue.
Fatigue in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis can be best described as a sensation of persistent debility or exhaustion. It is one of the first symptoms to develop, and can affect patients for hours, days, or become chronic and exist for months at a time. Fatigue is extremely detrimental to a patient’s quality of life because it can severely hinder their ability to work or participate in family or social life.
Since fatigue is not an obvious symptom, those affected by ALS often feel misunderstood by people around them who do not perceive or understand the impact it can have on the life of the person who suffers it.