Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Research, Scientific Breakthroughs, & Caregiver Tips
How is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Diagnosed?
When your doctor suspects that ALS might be the cause of early symptoms, he or she will conduct a variety of tests and exams. There is no single test or exam to detect ALS. Much of the diagnostic process is designed to rule out ALS by detecting other problems that could be causing symptoms, rather than directly diagnosing ALS itself.
- Laboratory tests. Tests of your blood and urine will not necessarily confirm a diagnosis of ALS, but tests may be able to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
- Electromyogram (EMG). This test uses electrodes to measure the electrical activity in your muscles as they work. The test can be used to detect abnormalities in muscle function that support a diagnosis of ALS.
- Imaging tests. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can detect abnormalities in your brain, spinal column, or other parts of your body. These tests may be used to rule out ALS by revealing another condition that’s causing your symptoms.
- Spinal tap. This procedure removes and tests a small amount of the fluid that protects your brain and spinal column. The test can often detect viral infections or inflammation in the brain.
- Nerve conduction tests. These tests measure how well your nerves are able to communicate with your muscles. These tests may detect nerve damage or disorders other than ALS that could be causing symptoms.
- Muscle biopsy. This test, a small amount of muscle tissue is removed and tested. The biopsy is typically used to detect other diseases and to rule out ALS.
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