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Managing ALS

Commonly known as ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurological condition that attacks nerve cells in your central nervous system. Also called Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS causes motor neurons to die, triggering a gradual loss of muscle movement and function.

As part of Dignity Health’s neurology services, we provide state-of-the-art care and treatment for ALS in the Bay Area. If you’d like to meet with a neurologist, Find a Doctor or visit a Dignity Health hospital near you.

ALS Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ALS depend on the stage of the disease. Early on, they may be very mild and hard to recognize.

Early ALS symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps or twitches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Stiffness

As ALS progresses and muscles continue to weaken, these symptoms become more severe.

Advanced ALS symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing, leading to an inability to eat
  • Inability to breathe, requiring a breathing machine
  • Trouble moving and eventual paralysis

If you recognize one or more of these symptoms, meet with an experienced Bay Area neurologist at Dignity Health for a diagnosis.

ALS Causes

Researchers don’t yet know what causes the development of ALS. Only about five to 10 percent of ALS cases are related to family history (hereditary). Certain genetic changes have been identified in these cases, as well as in nonhereditary ALS.

ALS Treatment & Prevention at Dignity Health

Treatment for ALS is focused on lessening the symptoms and improving everyday life. This may include:

  • Breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Drug therapy (riluzole and other medications in clinical trials)
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Nutritional support, which may include a feeding tube

Clinical trials have led to advancements in medicine that are helping people with ALS live much longer. Talk with your doctor about whether these may be right for you.

You’ll find expert care for ALS at Dignity Health hospitals in the Bay Area.