ALS is a neuromuscular disease that weakens the muscles in your body. Early symptoms of ALS include fatigue in the arms or legs, difficulty walking, muscle twitching, loss of dexterity in the hands, and slurred speech. Most people with ALS do not notice respiratory symptoms until after diagnosis.
Early signs that ALS may have begun to affect your respiratory system include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive saliva
- Difficulty coughing or clearing your throat
- Coughing when eating, drinking, or swallowing pills
- The need for extra fluids to get food down
- The need to prop yourself up with pillows at night to breathe better
When ALS weakens the diaphragm (your primary breathing muscle), it becomes harder to fully inhale and exhale. As your breaths become shorter and shallower, your body receives less oxygen and becomes less able to expel carbon dioxide. This leads to common ALS respiratory symptoms such as:
There is no cure for ALS, but if you get ALS respiratory support, you can sleep better, have more energy, be more comfortable, and experience a better quality of life.