Although there is no known cure for ALS, the drug riluzole has been approved for treatment and may slow progression of the disease. It is expensive, however, and appears modestly effective. Generally, treatment is designed to help control symptoms.

Medications prescribed include

  • Drugs such as baclofen or diazepam may help control spasticity.
  • Gabapentin may be prescribed to help control pain.
  • Trihexyphenidyl or amitriptyline may help patients swallow saliva.

Because choking is common as ALS progresses, patients may need a tube called a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube or feeding tube to be placed into the stomach for feeding. A referral to an otolaryngologist — an ear, nose and throat specialist — may be recommended.

Physical therapy, rehabilitation, use of appliances such as braces or a wheelchair, and other treatments may help muscles work as well as possible and improve your general health. Those who develop difficulty speaking may benefit from speech therapy as well as speech synthesizers and computer-based communication systems.

ALS patients gradually lose the ability to function and care for themselves. They may survive from two to 10 years after the onset of the disease, with about 20 percent of ALS patients living more than five years after diagnosis.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.