Signs & Symptoms of Lou Gehrig's Disease

By George N. Root III

Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a condition that affects the motor neurons in the body and starts to shut down the body's ability to move. It primarily affects the arms, legs and mouth, and it can eventually be fatal. Diagnosis is performed using a scan of the muscles and a biopsy of muscle tissue.

Muscle Coordination

As Lou Gehrig's disease begins to settle in, you may notice symptoms that begin to affect the muscles in your arms and legs. You may begin to experience a slight twitching in your arms or legs that seems to get worse over time. You may begin to lose coordination in your limbs, and as the condition progresses you may lose the ability to consciously use your arms and legs. You may also notice a loss of muscle tone that will become more evident over time.


One of the progressive symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease is the inability to walk. It may start out as a feeling of stiffness or discomfort in your feet and ankles. After a while you may begin to notice that your ankles are becoming weak, and the weak ankles combined with the stiff muscles in the feet can make walking difficult. At first you may notice that you are dragging your feet as you walk, and over time you may lose the ability to walk at all.

Motor Symptoms

As time passes, your Lou Gehrig's disease symptoms will start to make you feel fatigued. You may also notice that it is difficult to grip things, and you may start to drop things that you try to pick up. You will begin to lose coordination in your hands and you will find that doing simple tasks, such as brushing your teeth, will become extremely difficult. You may begin to slur your speech, which will make communication difficult.

Psychological Symptoms

Lou Gehrig's disease can cause severe mood swings that seem to get worse as the condition progresses. Most notably, you may find yourself suddenly alternating between crying for an extended period of time and then laughing uncontrollably a short time later.


As of 2009 there is no cure for Lou Gehrig's disease. Many doctors recommend using physical therapy to help you learn to cope with your physical deficiencies and to learn how to lead a productive life in spite of your limitations.

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