There is no cure for [ALS] However, researchers continue to look for potential treatments and additional medications to help slow the progression of the disease. Studies are also taking place to improve understanding of the condition and to help identify risk factors that might lead to the development of ALS.1
The Stages of ALS
ALS progresses in stages. Early symptoms of ALS can include:2
- Muscle cramps
- Twitching in the tongue, arms, shoulders, or legs
- Difficulty moving/muscle tightness
- Weakness in the arms, legs, or neck
- Difficulty breathing
- Slurred speech
- Nasal-sounding speech
- Swallowing difficulties
- Difficulty chewing
As ALS progresses, individuals often begin to stumble and fall and have difficulty performing basic daily tasks such as getting dressed or writing.
In advanced stages, muscle weakness leads to an inability to speak, swallow, and walk. Individuals will require mechanical ventilation when the muscles used for breathing (diaphragm) stop working. People with this condition ultimately become wheelchair-dependent.
As ALS progresses, it will eventually lead to death.
Formal Staging of ALS
The two formal staging systems for ALS are:3
- King’s staging system: This system focuses on the number of regions in the body that are affected by the condition.
- Milano-Torina staging system (MiToS): This system tracks the body’s loss of function.
Is There an ALS Cure?
There is no cure for ALS. Medications can help slow the progression of the disease, and therapies help individuals with the condition adapt to physical and emotional changes that occur.
These three medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help slow the progression of ALS:452
- Rilutek (riluzole): This medication decreases levels of glutamate (a neurotransmitter) to help reduce damage to motor neurons. Rilutek is available in pill form, but this medication is also available as thickened liquid (Tiglutik) or as a tablet dissolved on the tongue (Exservan).
- Radicava (edaravone): This medication is given by intravenous (IV) infusion, orally, or through a feeding tube; it helps slow functional decline for people with ALS.
- Relyvrio(sodium phenylbutyrate/taurursodiol): Approved in 2022, this medication is in powder form and taken by mixing with water. Relyvrio may lead to longer survival time for individuals with ALS.