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Conditions That Mimic ALS

author image Joseph Pritchard
Joseph Pritchard graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Medical School with a medical degree. He has spent almost a decade studying humanity. Dr. Pritchard writes as a San Francisco biology expert for a prominent website and thoroughly enjoys sharing the knowledge he has accumulated.
Conditions That Mimic ALS
Many diseases that affect the brain can mimic ALS. Photo Credit: Don Bayley/iStock/Getty Images

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.

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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain condition that systematically destroys cognitive and other neural functions, explains 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

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

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 Parkinson's also impairs speech over time.

Post-polio Syndrome

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

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.

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