Early symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be very subtle.
Early signs include:
- Generalized muscle weakness in the hands, arms, legs or feet
- Tripping or dropping items
- Difficulty lifting items
- Trouble using hands for everyday activities
As the disease progresses, patients may experience:
- Increased muscle weakness and twitching
- Cramps and stiffness in the hands and feet
- Slurred speech
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or breathing
- Complete paralysis
Causes and Risk Factors
In a majority of cases, the cause of ALS is unknown. About 5 to 10 percent of cases are attributable to familial ALS (FALS), which is seen in families where two or more members have the condition.
ALS generally affects adults, with most patients diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70. The disease is more common in men than women, although the distribution becomes more equal in older patients.