Lateral Sclerosis vs. Multiple Sclerosis – Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment


Understanding medical conditions can be challenging. Lateral Sclerosis and Multiple Sclerosis may seem similar. However, these are two different conditions. Let’s explore the differences between Lateral Sclerosis and Multiple Sclerosis. 

Before diving in, let’s touch on the nervous system. It is our body’s communication network. Picture it as a vast web of electrical cables. When there is a glitch in the cables, it affects how we move, feel, or think. 

What Is Lateral Sclerosis?

Most know Lateral Sclerosis as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a condition that zeroes in on nerve cells called motor neurons. These cells convey messages from the brain to our muscles. As they get damaged, muscles lose their function

Early Signs

The early signs start with arm, leg, or speech muscle issues. Over time, a person with ALS may struggle to move, speak, and even breathe.


What causes ALS is still a mystery. Most instances appear out of the blue. Yet, some have hereditary links. 

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. It is when the body mistakenly attacks itself. In MS, the target is myelin, a protective layer around nerve fibers. Damage to this layer interrupts nerve signals. 

Multiple Sclerosis

Early Signs

MS symptoms are diverse. They include fatigue, trouble walking, numbness, and even vision issues. The unpredictable part is that these symptoms can vanish, reappear, or intensify. 

The Difference Between Lateral Sclerosis And Multiple Sclerosis

  • Origin: ALS deteriorates motor neurons. In contrast, MS damages the myelin sheath of nerve fibers.
  • Symptoms: ALS mainly causes muscle weakness. MS presents a variety of symptoms, from vision problems to fatigue. 
  • Progression: 

More Differences

  • MS is diagnosed earlier than ALS
  • It is usually discovered between the ages of 20 and 40.
  • ALS is often diagnosed between 40 and 70.
  • They affect genders differently.
  • More women than men get MS.
  • ALS is more common in men.
  • MS is most common in Caucasians. ALS affects all ethnic groups equally. 
  • ALS can be inherited, but MS can not. 

Moreover, up to 10% of ALS cases are passed down directly through genes. That’s not so with the Multiple Sclerosis. But if your mother, father, or sibling has MS, you are at a higher risk of getting the disease. More people in the US have MS than ALS.

An estimated 12,000-30,000 people have ALS nationwide. Approximately 1 million people are living with MS. There’s no cure for either condition, but treatment can help slow both diseases. Lifestyle changes can help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life, too. 

Diagnosis And Treatment 

Both conditions require clinical evaluations and tests for diagnosis. ALS sadly has no cure. Treatment revolves around symptom relief. Medication, physical therapy, and system support play a significant role.

However, MS has several treatments. There are various medications available, and research continues to offer hope. 

How Do ALS And MS Impact You Mentally?

With ALS, the effects are primarily physical. Many with ALS stay mentally sharp as their body weakens. Still, some might face mild thinking or behavior issues. A few may develop dementia over time. 

MS affects the mind more than ALS does. Yet, it does not typically lead to dementia. Those with MS might have:

  • Mood changes.
  • Feeling down.
  • Trouble focusing or doing many things at once.
  • Mood can change more when symptoms come and go.

Effects Of ALS And MS On Immunity

MS involves the immune system. It is seen as an autoimmune issue. ALS, however, is different. The exact cause of it is unknown. It might be due to:

  • Genes
  • Harmful chemicals
  • A weak immune system

The Broader Picture: Support and Research

Both conditions impact daily life. But there’s hope and support. Support groups both virtual and in-person, offer a lifeline. Then, there is research. Numerous institutions globally aim to understand and cure these diseases better. 

The Societal Role

Awareness is essential. By understanding these conditions, we foster empathy and support in our communities. Workplaces can adapt to be more inclusive. Schools can educate students, ensuring future generations are more informed. 

Summing Up

Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) might sound the same, but they are distinctly different. Both impact the nervous system in unique ways. Yet, with ongoing research and a supportive community, there’s hope for those affected. 

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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