Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a motor neuron disease in which the nerve cells (motor neurons) that control the movement of muscles slowly degenerate, resulting in muscle weakness and wasting.

Symptoms of ALS

ALS can lead to painless muscle weakness and wasting, stiffness, cramping, and muscle twitching. These symptoms can start in one arm or leg and may over time spread to other body parts. ALS can affect the ability to speak, swallow, and breathe. The progression of disease varies dramatically with the type of motor neuron degeneration and with the individual.

Causes of ALS

The majority of ALS cases occur sporadically, but approximately 5 to 10 percent of cases are inherited. The exact cause of non-genetic cases is unknown. However, researchers are studying several possible causes that will hopefully lead to more effective treatments and a cure.

Treatments for ALS

There is currently no cure for ALS. Riluzole is the only medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of ALS. This medicine may help slow progression of the disease, but responses are very individual. Our doctors may also prescribe medicines to help with some of the symptoms of ALS such as muscle cramping, excessive salivation, depression, pain, spasticity, and uncontrolled outbursts of crying or laughing.

Mount Sinai provides integrated care and referrals to ensure that you, your loved ones, and everyone else affected by ALS have the support and therapy that are so important in this process. We may provide referrals to other specialties for physical rehabilitation; physical, occupational, and speech therapy; nutritional counseling; and psychological and social support.

The ALS Association Certified Treatment Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai Beth Israel offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, weekly ALS specialty clinic. The clinic provides a wide array of services and compassionate care to you and your family.