Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive nervous system disorder. It gradually destroys the nerves responsible for muscle movement. Over time, ALS leads to almost total paralysis of muscle movement, including breathing. Eventually, the disorder leads to respiratory failure.

Symptoms of ALS

  • Progressive weakness in arms and legs
  • Wrist or foot drop
  • Difficulty holding things
  • Frequent tripping while walking
  • Muscle twitching
  • Unpredictable and changing emotions
  • Slurred speech
  • Hoarseness and coughing
  • Trouble chewing and swallowing, resulting in frequent choking and gagging
  • Weight loss due to trouble eating
  • Trouble breathing
  • Excess salivation, drooling

ALS Treatment

While no cure exists for ALS, we can work with you to reduce or manage symptoms for a time.

Supportive care offered at UVA includes:

  • Physical therapy — To reduce pain associated with muscle cramping and spasticity
  • Respiratory care — In some cases, you may need to receive a mixture of air and oxygen from a machine. If you cannot move enough air in and out of your lungs, you may need surgery to have a tube inserted into your airway
  • Nutritional care — Providing dietary guidelines and help with tube feeding, if needed
  • Speech therapy — We can help optimize and explore alternative methods of communication

ALS Treatment Excellence

UVA's Richard R Dart ALS Program at the Adult Neurology Clinic has been recognized as the region's first Certified Treatment Center of Excellence (CTCE) by the ALS Association


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.