Similarities and differences between ALS and MS


What Are The Differences and Similarities Between MS and ALS?

There are some similarities between the two. For example, both diseases are neurodegenerative. This means that both diseases damage the central nervous system and negatively affect muscles and nerves. Both diseases limit a person’s mobility.

For example, early symptoms for both diseases may include trouble walking. Actually, symptoms between both patients are usually very similar in the beginning stages and include things like muscle spasms, trouble walking, stiffness in muscles, and tiredness and fatigue. However, as the disease starts to get worse symptoms become more diverse. There is no cure for either disease.

Some of the differences of the two diseases are vast and important however.

What it Affects

MS is an autoimmune disease and ALS is a motor neuron disease that affects the motor neuron cells in the spinal cord and brain.

Disease Course

MS has a very unpredictable course and it can vary widely from person to person. After diagnosis, people do not necessarily know how quickly or severely the disease will progress.

On the other hand, ALS has three distinct stages: early, middle, and late.

Late Stage of Diseases

People with ALS are completely paralyzed in the later stages. They likely are being fed with feeding tubes and cannot breathe on their own.

With MS in the later stages, mobility is affected but people are not usually completely debilitated.

What Areas of the Body Are Affected?

ALS only affects the nerves that control movement. MS also affects the senses and sight as well as the bladder.

The biggest difference is that MS tends to have a more negative effect on mental impairment and ALS patients exhibit more physical troubles.


Patients with MS may have normal or close to normal lifespans; the disease is not fatal. ALS however, is deadly and on average people only live 3-5 years after being diagnosed.


Women are more commonly diagnosed with MS while men are more commonly diagnosed with ALS.  It is unknown what causes these trends.

When it occurs

People tend to be diagnosed with MS earlier than ALS: as early as twenties, while ALS is usually diagnosed between the ages of 40-70. Furthermore, MS is a genetic disease so having a close relative with the disease means your chances of having the disease increase. Meanwhile, only 10% of ALS patients have a mutated gene that was passed down from parents.

How common

20,000 people in the US have MS while over 400,000 people are living with MS.

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