What is myasthenia gravis?
Myasthenia gravis occurs when the nerves fail to communicate properly with the muscles, causing weakness of fatigue in the voluntary muscles. Myasthenia gravis is most commonly found in women younger than 40 and men older than 60.
What causes myasthenia gravis?
In order to communicate with your muscles, your nerves release neurotransmitters that will be received by certain receptors in the muscle cells. If you have myasthenia gravis, your immune system produces antibodies that interfere with the receptors, either blocking or destroying them. When there are fewer receptors left, your muscles receive fewer signals, weakening your control over the muscles.
How do I know if I have myasthenia gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is hard to detect at its early stage. Major signs of myasthenia gravis include the loss of control over one’s eye and eyelid movements, causing drooping eyelids and altered vision. Other signs are swallowing difficulties, troubles with chewing and slurred speech, and narrowed range of facial expressions. Some people may experience muscle weakness only in the eye muscles while others suffer severe muscle fatigue in the respiratory system, resulting in breathlessness. People with myasthenia gravis may find it hard to hold their head high. Abnormal weakness of the limbs is also a symptom of myasthenia gravis. If you notice any signs and symptoms above, seek medical help as soon as possible.
Can myasthenia gravis be treated?
Myasthenia gravis can be managed with medication and surgery.
Medication treatments often include:
- Anticholinesterase agents (neostigmine and pyridostigmine) to improve the communication between the nerves and the muscles as well as strengthen muscles.
- Immunosuppressive drugs (prednisone, azathioprine, cyclosporin, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus) to suppress the release of antibodies that interfere with the neuromuscular transmission. If you use these drugs, you must be monitored closely by a certified physician since they have serious side effects.
Surgery for myasthenia gravis is often thymectomy. During this procedure, the thymus gland will be removed. The removal of the thymus gland may help keep the immune system in check, thus relieving symptoms caused by myasthenia gravis.
Another treatment option is plasmapheresis. Plasmapheresis involves removing abnormal antibodies from one’s blood while cells are replaced. This is accompanied by the immune globulin administered intravenously to temporarily modify the immune system through the infusion of antibodies from donated blood.
Your general healthcare provider will refer you to a neurologist who will help figure out the most suitable treatment for you by taking into account your condition severity, the affected muscles, your age, and other medical conditions (if any).
You may also interest in:
- Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage
- Myasthenia Gravis
- What Is Your Sciatic Nerve and Why Does It Hurt So Much?
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: April 24, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019
Myasthenia gravis Overview. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myasthenia-gravis/home/ovc-20200259 Accessed April, 2017