What’s the Difference Between ALS and MS?

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by Wendy Henderson |

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There are some similarities between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Both are diseases that attack the central nervous system, affecting the muscles and how you move your body.

MORE: Find out about the early symptoms of ALS.

They also both causes scarring around nerve cells called sclerosis, but it’s how this sclerosis occurs that leads to the differences between the two conditions.

The sclerosis in MS is caused by a breakdown in myelin, which is an insulation sheath that protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. When demyelination occurs, the signals from the brain to other parts of the body get interrupted.

In ALS, the scleroris breaks down motor neuron cells causing the myelin sheath to harden. This leads to the muscles wasting away.

In the early stages of either disease, symptoms can be similar, like muscle spasms, difficulty in walking and fatigue. As each disease progresses, the differences between the two will be clear. ALS is a fatal disease which usually leads to death within three  to five years, whereas MS rarely causes death. The effects of MS also differ from person to person.

MORE: Discover seven facts about ALS you might find interesting. 

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