Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're having some of the early signs and symptoms of a neuromuscular disease such as ALS, you might first consult your family doctor, who will listen to your description of symptoms and do an initial physical examination. Then your doctor will probably refer you to a doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist) for further evaluation.

What you can do

Once you're under the care of a neurologist, it may still take time to establish the diagnosis.

If you've been referred to certain medical centers, your evaluation may involve an integrated team of neurologists, and other doctors and health care professionals trained in different aspects of motor neuron disease.

Doctors will give you a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose your condition. However, this process can be stressful and frustrating unless your medical team keeps you informed. These strategies may give you a greater sense of control.

  • Keep a symptom diary. Before you see a neurologist, start using a calendar or notebook to jot down the time and circumstances each time you notice problems with walking, hand coordination, speech, swallowing or involuntary muscle movements. Your observations may reveal a pattern that aids diagnosis.
  • Find a neurologist and care team. Generally, an integrated care team led by your neurologist is most appropriate for your ALS care. Your team should communicate and be familiar with your individual needs.

An integrated team may prolong survival and improve your quality of care.

What to expect from your doctor

Your family doctor will carefully review your family's medical history and your signs and symptoms. Your neurologist and your family doctor may conduct a physical and neurological examination, which may include testing:

  • Reflexes
  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle tone
  • Senses of touch and sight
  • Coordination
  • Balance
April 09, 2014