Myasthenia Gravis, or MG as it is more easily called, is a rare autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness. When your immune system malfunctions it can start to attack heathy aspects of your body thinking healthy cells are foreign invaders. In the condition of MG your immune system attacks the junctions where your nerves communicate instructions to your muscles. This prevents your muscles from receiving proper instructions so your muscles don’t contract or behave as they should.
Luckily, this is a rare condition. There are roughly only 31,000 to 67,000 people dealing with this condition in the United States. However, because it is rare, it is tough to diagnosis and tough to find a knowledgeable medical team to help you treat and cope. This disease isn’t curable but it is treatable and you can live a normal life once you acquire a good treatment plan.
Signs & Symptoms
Muscle weakness or rapid fatigue of muscles caused by a break in communication between nerves and muscles.
- Weak Eye Muscles – Drooping Eye (early sign)
- Double Vision – That improves when one eye is closed.
- Facial Expression Changes
- Impaired Speech
- Difficulty: smiling chewing swallowing and breathing
- Weakness often starts in the face and progresses to arms and legs.
- Weak neck muscles make it hard to hold up your head.
- Weak leg muscles can impede your walk.
Myasthenia Gravis is not inherited nor is it contagious. It also can affect anyone
- Women under 40
- Men over 60
- Malfunctioning Immune System
- Thymus Gland – Your thymus gland is part of you immune system. The thymus gland controls the production of the antibodies that block acetylcholine. Brain cells use neurotransmitters to communicate information. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that tells your muscles what to do. If nerve signals are interrupted, as in MG they are, the result is muscle weakness. The thymus gland is small in healthy adults. However, some adults with MG have thymus gland tumors or their thymus gland is abnormally large.
There are 2 main divisions: Ocular MG affecting the eyes and the eye muscles; Generalized MG affecting muscles throughout the body.
Because of the rarity of this disease, it makes it harder to diagnose because of the general unfamiliarity with signs and symptoms. It can take 2 years to rule out more common causes of muscle weakness before MG is considered.
Muscle weakness is often blamed on: lack of sleep, too much exercise, depression, or poor nutrition.
Tests to expect:
- Medical History
- Physical Exam
- Neurological Examination – checking for coordination and impairment of eye movement.
- Edrophonium Test – Your medical professional may try an injection of edrophonium chloride; which is a drug that blocks the breakdown of acetylcholine and can test ocular muscle weakness.
- Blood Test – looking for abnormally elevated levels of acetylcholine receptor antibodies.
- Electrodiagnostics – Repetitive nerve stimulation.
- Computer Tomography (CT) Scans
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Pulmonary Function Testing – Measures breathing strength
Treatment is individualized based on age and severity. Seeking help from a neurologist or neuromuscular specialist is recommended.
The goal is to relieve the symptoms. This is often accomplished with medications. Medications can include:
- Cholinesterase Inhibitors – (Mestinon, Regonal, Bloxiverz) these medications enhance communication between nerves and muscles.
- Corticosteroids – these medications inhibit the immune system and limit antibody production.
- Immunosuppressants – these medications alter your immune system.
Intravenous Therapies – These therapies can be blood filtering procedures like dialysis that remove antibodies or immunoglobulin that helps your immune system with the correct antibody response.
Surgery can also be a choice, particularly if there are tumors on your thymus gland.
- Menstrual Periods
- Some medications – beta blockers, quinine, phenytoin, anesthetics and some antibiotics.
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease caused by an error in the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles. MG is a rare condition but hard to diagnose. If you have the signs and symptoms of muscle weakness especially in the face and no other explanation can be found, you should consider MG as a possible cause. With treatment most individuals can improve their muscle weakness and lead nearly normal lives. 50% of those diagnosed with MG have temporary or permanent remission and medication can be discontinued.
If you suffer with MG it could be helpful to join an online group for support. Finding others in your community could be difficult because of the rarity of the disease. Here is a resource you may consider: https://myasthenia.org/
Drooping eye or double vision can be early signs for Myasthenia Gravis disease! #HealthStatus
An autoimmune disease – a disease resulting from a disordered immune reaction in which antibodies are produced against one’s own tissues
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