How Is ALS Diagnosed?

By Stephanie Watson @YourCareE
November 10, 2017

Symptoms that mimic other conditions can make an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis difficult; researchers are working on better tests.

An amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis isn’t a straightforward process. The gradual progress of the disease, also known as ALS, and the subtlety of its early symptoms can delay a definitive diagnosis for months, or even longer.

What happens when you have ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms include weakness, clumsiness, slurred speech, and muscle twitches. The challenge is that these signs overlap with the symptoms of many other diseases, including multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, Lyme disease, HIV, and thyroid conditions.


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“In the early stages of the disease, diagnosis is difficult. Consequently, the average time between the first symptoms and diagnosis is approximately one year,” says Philip Van Damme, PhD, a professor of neurology at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

As the disease progresses, it becomes easier to diagnose with greater certainty. Yet by then, a lot of the damage has already been done.


Next: The ALS exam >>




March 16, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA