Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

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Also known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons are nerve cells that control muscle cells. ALS attacks the motor neurons eventually causing them to die resulting in inability to move and control movement.

Symptoms of ALS

ALS symptoms usually begins in people ages 40 to 70 years. Although, adults can also experience symptoms in their 20s and 30s.

Symptoms may be limited to a single area on the body or may affect multiple areas.

The first signs of ALS, include:

  • Weakness in the hands or arms
  • Weakness in the legs or feet

ALS patients may also experience:

  • Muscle cramps, spasms or twitching in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty walking/balancing
  • Difficulty speaking and swallowing
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing ALS

Since there currently is no single diagnostic test for ALS, our team of neurologists specializing in neuromuscular diseases may use a few of the following tests for diagnosis:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Neurological exam
  • Muscle biopsy
  • Spinal tap
  • Genetic tests

Causes and risks of ALS

The exact causes of ALS are unknown.

ALS risk factors include:

  • Family history: 5% to 10% of ALS diagnoses are familial ALS, meaning the disease runs in the family.
  • Age: Risk increases between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Gender: Men tend to develop ALS more than women.
  • Military service: Veterans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with ALS.

Treatment for ALS

Currently there is no cure for ALS, but there are medications to treat and help manage symptoms

Support groups for ALS

Biggs Institute Caring for a Parent with Dementia Support Group

A peer and professionally led group for adults with parents diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

When: Every second Thursday 4:00-5:30pm
Where: UT Health San Antonio

View upcoming dates

ALS Resources

Biggs Institute
Dedicated to providing comprehensive dementia care for patients and their families, the Biggs Institute offers advanced treatment with clinical trials, genetic testing and supportive, educational and enrichment programs.
Learn more

Lewy Body Dementia Association
Learn more about ALS and get connected to support.
Learn more

To make an appointment,

at our Certified Treatment Center of Excellence for ALS

call 210-450-9960