Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?

Better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a degenerative condition that causes the nerve cells in the brain and spine to fail to send signals to the muscles in the body. Without this communication, the muscles "atrophy," gradually weakening and wasting away. This affects the person's ability to control movement, ultimately leading to paralysis and the inability to use the muscles required to eat and breathe. Although the average survival time with ALS is three to five years, there are treatments and medications that can help minimize a person's symptoms and some people live well beyond five years.

Symptoms of ALS

ALS symptoms may look like clumsiness at first. If you have ALS you may have difficulty grasping hold of things or may drop things easily. You may trip more easily or have difficulty walking and maintaining balance.

Other symptoms of ALS may include:

  • Changes in the way the voice sounds
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to hold head up and maintain good posture
  • Muscle cramps and twitching in arms, shoulders, tongue
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weakness in the extremities (hands, feet, legs, ankles)

In spite of the changes that happen as the disease progresses, people with ALS retain their mental abilities and are able to control their eyes and bladder.


Treatment for ALS patients generally involves participation of a multidisciplinary team of physicians, pharmacists, occupational and home health therapists, nutritionists and social workers. While there is no cure for the disease, therapies such as these may relieve your symptoms and discomfort:

    Neurology Medical Management

    Physical Therapy

    Each inpatient and outpatient physical therapy rehab is individually designed and administered by a licensed physical therapist who consistently guides you from that first visit all the way through recovery.

    Speech Therapy

    Our multidisciplinary approach to inpatient and outpatient speech therapy rehab includes expert diagnosis and treatment of speech, language, cognitive and swallowing disorders led by master’s-level, licensed and certified speech pathologists.

    Occupational Therapy

    Occupational therapy and sensory integration helps patients who’ve experienced a debilitative injury or illness return to activities of daily living (ADL), such as dressing, eating, writing, shopping, toileting and driving.




    Main Line Health’s lung health experts and pulmonology specialists treat a wide range of conditions that affect the lungs and respiratory tract.


    The neurology team at Main Line Health treats and manages conditions such as migraines, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and more.