How is ALS Diagnosed?


NewYork-Presbyterian doctors use a variety of approaches to test for and diagnose ALS, which may include:

  • Physical and neurological examination to evaluate family and personal medical history and symptoms 
  • Blood and urine tests to rule out the presence of other diseases that may cause similar symptoms
  • Electrodiagnostic tests (such as electromyography and nerve conduction studies) which evaluate muscle and nerve function
  • Muscle and/or nerve biopsy to determine if another muscle disease may be causing the symptoms
  • Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualize the brain and spinal cord

How is ALS Treated?


There is no way to reverse the motor neuron damage of ALS or to cure the disease. However, there are treatments available to control ALS symptoms and make living with the disease easier. Psychosocial support is also available for patients and their caregivers to help them manage daily life with ALS.


Several drugs for ALS are being assessed in clinical trials, but only two drugs — riluzole (Rilutek®) and edaravone (Radicava®) — are currently approved by the FDA for treating ALS. Riluzole has been shown to slow the progression of the disease and prolong survival by several months. Edaravone can slow the decline in daily functioning that occurs in people with ALS. Other medications may be used to alleviate symptoms such as muscle cramps, stiffness, and excess saliva. We can match you with the most appropriate medications for your care.

Nutritional support

Dietitians can design an eating plan of small meals that provide sufficient nutrients while avoiding foods that may be challenging to swallow. ALS patients should eat foods high in antioxidants and carotenes, such as fruits and vegetables, along with foods high in fiber, such as grains, fish, and lean protein. In the later stages of the disease, patients may require the placement of a feeding tube.


Physical, occupational, speech/swallowing, and respiratory therapy are all available at NewYork-Presbyterian to help ALS patients maintain their strength and function as long as possible. Special equipment can help patients continue to communicate effectively, remain mobile, and ensure their safety.

ALS Research


NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center maintains one of the world’s leading basic science and clinical research programs directed at ALS. Researchers at the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig MDA/ALS Multidisciplinary Care Center and the Columbia Motor Neuron Center are conducting studies to decipher the mechanisms behind ALS and to identify new targets for innovative therapies. 

Their shared goal is to learn what causes ALS and to develop therapies to stop the progression of and ultimately cure this debilitating disease. You or your loved one may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial of a promising new approach. To learn about clinical trials for ALS, email [email protected].


Donate to ALS research



ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The earliest signs of ALS typically include muscle weakness, twitching, cramping, or stiffness.

ALS affects two out of every 100,000 people each year. In the United States, about 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS annually.

The life expectancy of ALS varies from person to person. Most people die within three to five years of the onset of symptoms, but about 10 percent of people with ALS survive 10 or more years.

As the motor neurons start to lose their function, they stop sending messages to the muscles. The muscles then start to weaken, twitch, and atrophy (waste away). This degeneration of the muscles eventually spreads throughout the whole body.

The progression of ALS varies from one person to the next, with most people dying within three to five years. Five percent of people with ALS live 20 years or longer.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for ALS Treatment

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we assess your symptoms and perform the needed testing to make an accurate diagnosis of ALS and then customize a care plan for you. 

Our health care professionals collaborate to provide expertise, education, resources, and guidance to people diagnosed with ALS and their families and caregivers. Make an appointment to learn how we can help you.