ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

People with ALS turn to Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) for high-quality, comprehensive, family-oriented care and treatment. We develop an ALS treatment plan to help slow progression of the disease and manage symptoms. At LVHN ALS Center, we will develop an ALS treatment plan to help manage symptoms and minimize complications associated with ALS.

At LVHN, you’ll work with a team of health care professionals specially trained to address the needs of people living with ALS. Experts from multiple disciplines work together to make sure you receive leading-edge care that is tailored for your needs.

As the region’s only ALS Association Recognized Treatment Center (since 2003), we offer treatments to help prolong your life and manage your symptoms. At LVHN ALS Center, we know that the disease affects loved ones as well. We work with patients, families and caregivers to offer comprehensive, compassionate care.

What is ALS?

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the baseball player who died from the disease in 1941. It is a type of motor neuron disease. ALS is a progressive neurological disorder. The nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain degenerate, affecting nerve and muscle function. 

Why choose LVHN for ALS treatment?

When you come to LVHN, you will find:

  • Dedicated team: Managing ALS requires a team that includes a neurologist, nurses, dietitians and social workers, as well as speech, occupational and respiratory therapists. You’ll see many different providers during one visit.
  • Educational resources: We offer many resources to help you manage ALS. The ALS Association Support Group meets monthly at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest. For more information, call 888-402-LVHN (5846) or reach out to Wendy Barnes, MSW, with the ALS Association, at 610-797-2102. We also are affiliated with the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association and can connect you with local community resources.
  • Lifelong care: We are with you every step of the way. We help you manage your symptoms and live your best life. Our team is here to monitor your treatment progress, answer any questions and provide support. 

ALS symptoms

People with ALS often experience symptoms differently. The symptoms may mimic those of other conditions, so it’s important to see a doctor for a precise diagnosis.

Symptoms usually don’t start until after age 50, but they can occur in younger people. People with ALS lose muscle strength and coordination over time. Weakness can first affect the arms or legs, breathing and swallowing. As ALS progresses, it makes it impossible go up steps, get out of a chair, or swallow.

ALS  typically doesn’t affect the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch). Most patients are able to think normally, although a small number have dementia, a condition which causes problems with memory.

Signs that a person may have ALS   

  • Weakness in one limb that develops over a few weeks or months, followed by weakness in another limb several weeks or months later 
  • Slurred speech or difficulty swallowing

As ALS progresses, symptoms include:

  • Twitching and cramping of muscles 
  • Loss of motor control in the arms and legs
  • Impaired use of the arms and legs, including tripping and falling
  • Dropping things
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Slurred or thick speech and difficulty projecting the voice

As the disease progresses, you may experience difficulty breathing, swallowing and paralysis. 

ALS diagnosis

We ask you about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination. These tests can help rule out other conditions. 

These tests, including neurologic diagnostic tests, can help rule out other conditions.

ALS treatment

The goal of treatment is to help you manage symptoms and minimize complications associated with ALS. Treatments include:

  • Physical, occupational, speech, respiratory and nutritional therapy
  • FDA-approved medications for the treatment of ALS
  • Moderate exercise to maintain muscle strength and function

We can help you navigate this journey

Please call 888-402-LVHN (5846) to schedule an appointment or learn more about LVHN ALS Center.

Neurological diagnostic services

The right diagnosis is the first step to getting the care you need for ALS. We provide the latest, most advanced diagnostic and imaging techniques.

Learn more about neurological diagnostic services.

Rehabilitation for ALS

Rehabilitation specialists are an important part of your care plan. We develop a customized plan for you to help you manage the symptoms of ALS.

Learn more about neurological rehab.