Question:

How important is the neurological exam in diagnosing ALS?

The Neurological Exam

The neurological examination is a “head to toe” examination of your body. The examination will start with the neurologist assessing your clarity of mind. He or she will look for problems in memory, behavior, or mood to determine your “mental status”.

When the “mental status” part of the examination is complete, the next step is to exam the nerves innervating the head and neck. Some of the activities the neurologist will tell you to do might seem silly such as “puffing out your cheeks,” or “sticking out your tongue.” However as a trained professional, the neurologist will have a keen eye to notice when these actions are not performed correctly. This can indicate the various nerves affected by ALS.

After the examination of the head and neck, the neurologist will proceed to exam your torso and extremities. He or she will look for weakness in the limbs or muscle tremors.

The last step within the neurological examination is to assess your reflexes. The neurologist will pay important attention to areas of your limbs showing decreased, increased, or absent reflexes.

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