Motor neuron disease is a degenerative disease that affects the nerves that control voluntary movement (the motor neurons). Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the most common form of motor neuron disease.
Motor neuron diseases are often difficult to diagnose. Symptoms such as muscle weakness, muscle contractions, difficulty breathing and swallowing can be associated with other neurological conditions. Your physician may order several tests to diagnose a motor neuron disease and rule out other neurological conditions. Tests may include:
Blood tests may be performed to check for infection or other problems.
Computed tomography (CT) scan
A CT scan is an imaging test that captures images of the body from different angles. The images are combined to create detailed cross-sectional views of organs, bones and blood vessels.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection
Also called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap, CSF collection uses a needle to examine the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Genetic testing may be recommended to identify an inherited risk for ALS.
Nerve conduction studies
An electromyography (EMG) or other test may be performed to check the health of nerves and the muscles they control.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
MRI uses a powerful magnet, radio waves and advanced digital technology to provide detailed images of organs, bone and soft tissue.
While there’s no cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, Scripps offers treatment options to help reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. Your Scripps neurologist will develop a treatment plan to address your individual needs and may prescribe:
- Medication to slow the progression of the disease and reduce symptoms
- Nutritional counseling to minimize weight loss associated with Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Physical therapy to maintain muscle function
- Respiratory therapy to help with breathing difficulty
Your Scripps care team is here to help you manage the symptoms of motor neuron disease and live as independently and comfortably as possible.