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Difference Between ALS and MS


Both ALS and MS are diseases that affect the brain and spinal cord.  However, it is essential to distinguish between the two as this will help in the treatment of either disease.  ALS is formally known medically as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The damage caused by MS is the result of the body’s own immune system causing damage to the spine, leading to paralysis. This disease is also referred to as autoimmune disease.  The patient’s own immune system attacks normal tissue in the spine, causing degeneration of the muscles and leading to loss of movement and balance.  ALS, meanwhile, is caused by the slow failing of the nerve cells called the motor neurons. These neurons are those cells that control the movement of the different parts of the body. ALS is also called the Lou Gehrig’ss disease.

The are also differences in the symptoms of the two diseases, particularly in the initial stages.  The first symptoms that would indicate MS in a patient include numbness, ataxia, blurred vision and lack of balance when walking or moving.  For ALS, the primary indications would be difficulty in swallowing, breathing problems and muscle weakness. The rarity of ALS is also a major difference between the two.  Only around 30,000 Americans have been affected by ALS, while there are roughly 500,000 cases of MS across the United States.

There three different subtypes of ALS.  The first is progressive muscular atrophy which affects the lower motor neurons.  The other two are primary lateral sclerosis and progressive bulbar palsy.  The former sub-type attacks the upper neurons, while the latter attacks the bulbar muscles of the body.  There are no sub-classifications for MS.  However, there are generally four presentations or stages of the disease.  These stages are relapsing remitting, primary progressive, secondary progressive and progressive relapsing.

The life expectancy of a person who is diagnosed with ALS is usually around two to six years from the date of diagnosis.  There are rare cases where the patient can survive up to twenty years.  People afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis can achieve a normal life span provided that proper care and treatment are provided for the patient.  Generally, these degenerative disorders are incurable.  However, some treatment can be given to ease the discomfort of a patient who is diagnosed with the disease.


1. ALS is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and MS is also known as autoimmune disease.
2. MS causes damage when the human immune system attacks the normal tissues of the brain and the spine, while ALS attacks the motor neurons that send signals for movement to other parts of the body.
3. ALS is classified into three different sub-types while, in MS, there are four stages of the disease.
4. An ALS patient can live a life of up to five to twenty years after diagnosis, while an MS patient can be expected to have a nromal life expectancy.

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  1. Thanks for the article, however there is an error. You stated that there are no sub-classifications of MS. That is not true. There are 4 types of Multiple Sclerosis, NOT 4 stages. Someone may have relapsing-remittins MS and never have that become progressive. Likewise, a person my have primary progressive right from the get-go with no distinct relapses. Some people, like myself, do appear to have stages, going from RR to secondary progressive, but each of those still is a subset of the disease, not a phase or stage.

    • Great response.. I would also like to point out too, that in the case of progressive MS . . . the life expectancy is most certainly altered in many cases, and most certainly the quality of life is drastically altered especially in the last few years of life. . . being bed ridden and unable to move, speak, or respond. It is a dreadful disease in it’s worst form. Perhaps one in three MS sufferers has this form. Also, there is no “proper care or treatment” that will stop the progress of progressive MS. Taking interferon, for example, only has a minimal effect on other forms of MS.. and costs thousands per year but doesn’t do any good in the progressive form (according to studies it was insignificant)..The side effects are very serious too including liver damage and depression. In progressive MS there isn’t much else worse than to be paralized for three, four, or more years after having suffered a slow steady decline in body function over one, two, or more decades.. I know the MS Society likes to minimize these cases so as to give hope to the majority of MS sufferers, but people with the severe form seem to be overlooked… It really is very sad.

  2. My husband was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) when he was 61 years old 4 years ago. The Rilutek (riluzole) did very little to help him. The medical team did even less. His decline was rapid and devastating. His arms weakened first, then his hands and legs. Last year, a family friend told us about Rich Herbs Foundation (RHF) and their successful ALS TREATMENT, we visited their website ww w. richherbsfoundation. c om and ordered their ALS/MND Formula, i am happy to report the treatment effectively treated and reversed his Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), most of the symptoms stopped, he is able to walk and able to ride his treadmill again, he is pretty active now.

  3. My mom ALS started out with a foot drop on her left foot. From there her left leg lost all muscle tone and all the entire left leg muscles were almost gone. Also her fingers and thumbs “contract” at times. Left arm is losing muscle tone too,she have been suffering from amyotrophic laterals sclerosis (ALS) disease for the last seven years and had constant pain which really get us worried, especially in her knees, the only treatment for this ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is natural organic treatments honestly ,Multivitamin Herbal Care has the perfect herbal remedy to Motor Neuron Disease including,getting into bed was also another thing she finds impossible. We had to find a better solution for her condition which has really helped her a lot,The biggest help we had was¬†multivitamincare orgThey walked us through the proper steps, I highly recommend these herbs to anyone suffering from ALS.

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