How Is ALS Diagnosed? - Page 2

By Stephanie Watson @WatsonWriter
November 10, 2017
Doctor reading a chart --- Image by © David Sutherland/Corbis

The ALS exam

To receive an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, you’ll see a doctor who specializes in diseases of the brain and spinal cord, called a neurologist. First the doctor will ask about your family and personal medical history. Then you’ll be asked about your symptoms – including when they started.

During a neurological exam, the doctor will check for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms like these:

  • Weakness — often on one side of your body
  • Slurred speech and trouble moving your mouth and tongue
  • Muscle twitches
  • Rigid, tight muscles
  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Uncontrollable laughter or crying
  • Mental changes, such as trouble recognizing or remembering words

Certain criteria help doctors make an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis. These include:

  • Signs of damage to upper motor neurons in the brain
  • Signs of damage to lower motor neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord
  • Progression of symptoms from one part of the body to another
  • No evidence of other diseases that cause similar symptoms


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March 16, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA