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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a life-ending neurological disorder that causes progressive degeneration (breakdown) of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Often called "Lou Gehrig's disease," named after the famous baseball player who passed away from the disease, it’s a devastating illness that affects the way your muscles and nerves function.

ALS doesn’t affect mental functioning or your ability to see or hear, and it’s not contagious. Most people who develop the condition are between 40 and 70 years old, though it can occur at a younger age. ALS affects as many as 30,000 people in the United States, with 5,600 new cases diagnosed each year. Currently, there’s no cure for ALS.

There are three different types of ALS:

  • Sporadic ALS: The most common form of ALS in the U.S., representing about 90 to 95 percent of all cases. It occurs randomly, without any known cause, and this form of the disease doesn’t run in families.
  • Familial ALS: A rare, inherited form of the disease that accounts for fewer than 10 percent of all cases in the U.S.
  • Guamanian ALS: A form of the disease that was observed in Guam and the Trust Territories of the Pacific in the 1950s.

Symptoms of ALS vary from person to person, and can include:

  • Lack of coordination or muscle control in your hands, arms, and legs, which may cause you to drop things or trip and fall frequently
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Slurred or thick speech and difficulty projecting your voice
  • Twitching and cramping of muscles, especially in your hands and feet
  • Uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying

As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Paralysis

Why Choose UHealth?

World-class care in an academic health center. As a research and teaching institution, we treat children and adults with proven, leading-edge procedures based on clinical studies performed at the Miller School of Medicine. Our doctors, residents, nurses, and therapists work together to improve health care.

Relief and comfort for chronic pain conditions. Due to our renowned expertise, we receive referrals for patients from all over the world. Our doctors are dedicated to providing best practice pain management services and a customized treatment plan to each patient through the most comprehensive pain interventions offered in South Florida.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Treatments

  • Therapy

    For most people with ALS, the primary treatment is to manage your symptoms. Your doctor may include physical, occupational, speech, respiratory, and nutrition therapies as part of your treatment.

  • Medications

    Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help relieve any muscle cramping related to ALS. There’s no proven treatment for ALS, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Rilutek® — the first drug to extend the life of people with ALS.

  • Heat or Whirlpool Therapy

    Your doctor may recommend heat or whirlpool therapy to help relieve muscle cramps.

  • Exercise

    Exercise, although recommended in moderation, may help maintain your muscle strength and function.

Tests

  • Laboratory Tests

    Your doctor uses lab tests to confirm if you have ALS, including blood and urine studies, and thyroid function tests.

  • Muscle or Nerve Biopsy

    During this procedure, your doctor takes a sample of tissues (either using a minimally invasive procedure or a needle) that will be examined under a microscope.

  • Spinal Tap (Lumbar Puncture)

    In this test, your doctor inserts a needle into your spinal canal (the area around your spinal cord) to get a sample of your cerebral spinal fluid, which surrounds your brain and spine. The fluid is sent to the lab to testing check for an infection or other problems. A lumbar puncture also allows your doctor to measure the pressure in your spinal fluid.

  • X-ray

    This test uses electromagnetic energy beams to create pictures of your internal tissues, bones, and organs.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    An MRI scan uses a combination of large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed images of your organs and other structures inside your body.

  • Electrodiagnostic Tests

    These studies allow your doctor to evaluate your muscles and nerves that control them (motor neurons) by measuring electrical activity. 

    • Electromyography (EMG) involves a technician inserting electrodes into your muscle, and a specialized computer recording electrical activity and muscle response.
    • In nerve conduction velocity (NCV), a technician places electrodes on the skin overlying a muscle or muscle group, and a specialized computer records electrical activity and muscle response.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry First Health PPO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Seasons Hospice
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care