Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a degenerative condition that systematically destroys the neurons responsible for voluntary movement, according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. There are an estimated 5,000 Americans who are diagnosed with ALS every year. Diagnosis can be hampered, however, as there are other conditions that mimic ALS.
Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain condition that systematically destroys cognitive and other neural functions, explains MayoClinic.com. Just like ALS, Alzheimer's eventually impairs communication and motor functions. Alzheimer's also hampers the ability to perform simple daily activities such as eating and dressing, just like ALS.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that affects the central nervous system, explains MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. MS attacks the protective material around neurons. Like ALS, MS can affect the muscles used in movement as well as speech. Similarly, MS is currently incurable.
Parkinson's disease is a brain disease that affects movement and muscle control. Parkinson's can impair the capacity to walk unassisted, as does ALS, explains MayoClinic.com. Parkinson's also impairs speech over time.
Post-polio syndrome, or PPS, is a disease that can affect former polio patients several years after recovering from the disease, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. PPS is a motor neuron disease as is ALS. As such, PPS has symptoms similar to ALS, such as degenerative muscle use as well as swallowing and breathing problems.
Primary Lateral Sclerosis
Primary lateral sclerosis, or PLS, is a motor neuron condition that targets nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. PLS also decreases muscle capacity resulting in total locomotor impairment. Both diseases, however, are so similar that PLS is considered a variant of ALS, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Progressive Bulbar Palsy
Progressive bulbar palsy is a motor neuron disease that affects the part of the brain responsible for speech, as well as mouth movements used when eating. The disease is similar to ALS because it also eventually inhibits the capacity to eat and drink as well as speak.
Progressive Muscular Atrophy
Progressive muscular atrophy is a motor neuron disease that affects muscles in the lower body, torso and respiratory area. The disease has symptoms that are very similar to ALS such as impaired motor control and involuntary muscle contractions.
Pseudobulbar palsy is a disease that affects the motor neurons, notes the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The disease has symptoms similar to ALS such as gradual loss of speech and impaired ability to perform actions commonly associated with eating and drinking.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, is a motor neuron disease that affects the skeletal muscles and nerve cells responsible for locomotion, swallowing, breathing and speech. Like ALS, SMA is a degenerative condition.
- Mayo Clinic: Alzheimer's stages: How the disease progresses
- Mayo Clinic: Parkinson's Disease: Symptoms
- MedlinePlus: Multiple Sclerosis
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Fact Sheet
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Motor Neuron Disease Fact Sheet