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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

Symptoms of ALS include:

  • Muscle weakness and wasting (atrophy) in the:

    • Arms and legs

    • Torso

    • Breathing muscles

    • Throat and tongue

Weakness usually begins in the arms and legs. It worsens slowly over time.

  • Muscle twitching, cramps, stiffness, and muscles that tire easily

  • Slowed speech that becomes progressively harder to understand

  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing; choking

  • Weight loss because of:

    • Muscle breakdown

    • Poor nutrition caused by problems swallowing

  • Sudden involuntary bursts of laughter or crying

  • Changes in the way the person walks. Eventually, loss of ability to walk.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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