The Misdiagnosis of ALS
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a disease in which nerve cells break down, reducing functionality in the muscles they supply. The most common initial symptom of ALS is gradual onset, painless, progressive muscle weakness. Other symptoms vary and can include abnormal fatigue of arms and/or legs, muscle twitches and cramps, slurred speech, tripping and dropping things. Sense of sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell are not affected, as ALS only attacks motor neurons.
However, there is no one specific scan, blood test or other procedure that definitively states that a patient has ALS and nothing else. In fact, ALS is diagnosed largely by ruling out other medical conditions. A World Federation of Neurology meeting sought to set criteria for ALS diagnosis in 1990. They concluded that “a definite diagnosis of ALS can be made when there are clear signs of damage to both the upper (brain) and the lower (brainstem and spinal cord) motor neurons; and when the neuron damage can’t be explained by the presence of any other abnormalities.” Despite the established criteria, ALS is commonly misdiagnosed due to the fact that ALS symptoms mimic those of other conditions.
In about 10 to 15 percent of cases, patients are told that they have ALS when they have another disease or condition with similar symptoms. Additionally, up to 40 percent of patients are told they have another disease or condition, when, in fact, they do have ALS. These numbers are alarming, to say the least, as a misdiagnosis of ALS could mean the difference between life and death.
ALS is one of WorldCare International’s standard covered conditions. Neurological conditions, such as ALS, make up about 12 percent of cases reviewed by WorldCare. When diagnosed with ALS, a medical second opinion from a team of top medical specialists at top-ranked US research and academic hospitals, such as those of the WorldCare Consortium®, will help to confirm or modify an ALS diagnosis, as well as suggest optimal treatment plans. Because of WorldCare’s unique relationship with the top-ranked facilities in the WorldCare Consortium®, our medical second opinion service is the gold-standard in the industry. Our medical second opinions are focused on all aspects of a patient’s case to ensure that the correct diagnosis and optimal treatment plan are established.
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