Understanding the Stages of ALS

ALS - diagnosis written on a white piece of paper. Syringe and vaccine with drugs.
Where can I go to find required support?

Being given a diagnosis of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) can raise a lot of questions and concerns, for both the person diagnosed and his or her loved ones. What’s the cause of ALS? What are the signs or symptoms of ALS at this time, and how will they change in the years to come? Where can I go to find required support?

As many as 30,000 Americans are currently diagnosed with ALS, and nearly 5,600 new patients are diagnosed with the disease every year. And even though the actual cause is not clear, some studies point to complicated risk factors, such as a doubled risk of ALS in veterans who served during the Gulf War. 

Although each person can be impacted by ALS differently, the advancement of the disease does seem to follow specific phases. Learning about the stages of ALS can help those with the disease and those who care for them implement the most appropriate plan of care.

Early Stages

  • Symptoms of ALS may be detected only in one particular area of the body
  • However, milder signs and symptoms may affect more than that one area
  • For some individuals, the first impacted muscles are those used for speaking, swallowing or breathing

Possible Symptoms:

  • Poor balance
  • Fatigue
  • Slurring of speech
  • Weakened grip
  • Stumbling when walking

Middle Stages

  • Some particular muscles may experience paralysis, while others are weaker or completely unaffected
  • Symptoms of ALS are now more extensive
  • Twitching may be apparent

Possible Symptoms:

  • Difficulties in standing up unassisted
  • Challenges with eating and swallowing, which can result in choking
  • Difficulty breathing, especially when lying down
  • Possible uncontrolled and inappropriate laughing or crying, known as the pseudobulbar affect (PBA)

Late Stages

  • The person with ALS needs full assistance to care for his/her needs
  • Speaking may no longer be possible
  • The individual can no longer eat or drink by mouth

Possible Symptoms:

  • Paralysis in most voluntary muscles
  • Breathing is severely compromised, resulting in exhaustion, unclear thinking, headaches and susceptibility to pneumonia
  • Mobility is severely impacted

Receiving care from a professional in-home caregiver, such as Live Well at Home, can enhance quality of life for people during all the stages of ALS. Our professional Roseville CA in home care caregivers work with families to develop an individualized plan of care, allowing those experiencing symptoms of ALS to maintain dignity and the highest possible level of independence at all times. Contact us online or call 916-459-3220 to learn more.

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