Symptoms

 

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What are the Symptoms of ALS?

Symptoms of ALS vary from person to person. Some begin to experience weakness in a leg, or an arm, a hand, or a foot. Some begin to lose their voice, or have trouble swallowing. A few have reported difficult breathing in the beginning. Fasciculations, or twitching of muscles, is a common sign.  Back to What Is ALS?

Curtis first noticed decreased strength in his right leg. One day, he could not step up a step with his right leg while carrying a concrete panel on his shoulders.  Since his progression was so rapid, by the next month, his right biceps was also weak, and he had trouble rising from a chair, and climbing stairs. His left arm weakened next, and his hands followed. His breathing declined for a few months, and in May of 1999, five months after diagnosis, he used a bi-pap, an external respiratory aid, to help him breathe more comfortably at night. By August, he relied on the bi-pap twenty-four hours a day, and could only move his head. September and October brought difficulty swallowing, and in October he had surgery for a feeding tube. He opted not to have a permanent ventilator, and thus in December of 1999, he died of respiratory failure. Before his death, he could not move his hands, arms, feet, or legs. His head could move from side to side, but not forward and back. He could not eat or drink through his mouth, but he could still speak in a whisper. His speech had become somewhat slurred. His facial muscles had deteriorated, but he could still manage a hint of a smile.

Curtis' grandmother, who died in 1962 as a result of ALS, experienced a hoarse voice at first.  Two months later she had limitations in her hands and arms with the right side being the worse.  As the disease progressed, she lost her voice, the use of her arms and hands, and had severe difficulty swallowing.  At times breathing was difficult for her.  The disease had just started to affect the lower extremities when she passed away, eight months after her initial symptom.