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Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia Gravis or MG is a neuromuscular disorder in which a person’s muscles weaken and tire out easily. This is a chronic autoimmune disorder caused by antibodies attacking the receptors that stimulate muscle contraction, shutting down the communication between the muscles and nerves. People suffering from this form of autoimmune disorder find that the muscle weakness improves after taking a little rest. Among the commonly affected areas are the muscles in the eyes and jaw.

Treating Myasthenia Gravis involves managing the associated signs and symptoms. This helps the patient live with the condition and improve his/her overall quality of life. The doctor will need to conduct a variety of tests to confirm the MG diagnosis and plan the most suitable treatment method for the patient. Treatment may involve taking medications, undergoing therapies and surgical intervention.

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Myasthenia Gravis – Causes

Normally, the body produces antibodies to protect itself against foreign and potentially harmful substances. They fight off foreign invaders that may cause infection and diseases. In the case of MG, these antibodies mistakenly attack and destroy the acetylcholine receptors and prevent muscle contractions from happening. Under normal conditions, acetylcholine binds with receptors to stimulate muscle contraction. People with MG have fewer acetylcholine receptors thus resulting in fewer nerve signals which lead to muscle weakness.

Experts are puzzled by the production of antibodies that attack the acetylcholine receptors. However, they believe that the problem has something to do with the thymus gland. The thymus gland is the portion of the immune system that produces antibodies.  Several factors have been thought to trigger and aggravate MG, including stress, fatigue, extreme heat, illness and certain medications. Some of the offending medications are certain antibiotics, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and quinine.

Myasthenia Gravis  Symptoms

The early detection of MG is quite challenging because the symptoms appear and disappear suddenly and sufferers also feel much better with rest. Usually, patients of MG initially fail to recognize that the symptoms have gotten worse over time, generally reaching their peak a few years after the start of the disease.

MG affects the voluntary muscles in different parts of the body.  But the disorder is more evident on the following muscle groups:

  • Eyes

The early symptoms of MG are eminent on the muscles surrounding the eyes. Those affected often have to deal with vision problems like diplopia or double vision and ptosis or drooping eyelids.

  • Throat

MG has been found to frequently affect throat muscles too, causing various difficulties in speaking, chewing and swallowing.

  • Face

The facial muscles could also be affected as manifested by the limited facial expressions of an MG patient.

  • Neck

The disorder also affects the muscles in the neck alongside the throat, face and eye muscles. This makes it hard for sufferers to keep their head upright.

  • Limbs

MG has been found to occur more frequently in the limbs as well which is the reason why sufferers tend to waddle when walking.

Individuals are advised to visit the doctor for proper diagnosis when they experience the symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis. Since the disorder comes in different forms, proper classification is crucial for appropriate treatment and effective management. MG is classified into three, and these are:

  • Transient neonatal MG

This is a form of MG that affects around 10% to 20% of babies whose mothers also suffer from MG.

  • Ocular MG

Some patients only experience muscle weakness in the area that controls eye movements.

  • Generalized MG

Nearly 90% of patients experience this form of MG, which is felt on the legs, arms and trunks.

  • Congenital MG

This form of MG occurs as a result of an inherited defective gene.

Myasthenia Gravis risk factors

Anyone may develop MG, but statistics showed that it occurs more frequently in individuals between 20 and 40 years of age. It has also been found to affect more females than males. People suffering from other forms of autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are at risk of developing MG as well. MG is likewise hereditary.

Myasthenia Gravis requires prompt medical attention to prevent complications. This is especially important since some complications are potentially life-threatening. Among the problems that may occur if MG is left untreated are Thymus tumors, Myasthenic crisis,  Pernicious anemia and thyroid problems.

Myasthenia Gravis diagnosis

Doctors can immediately diagnose MG based on the symptoms displayed by the patient. However, diagnostic tests are still performed to confirm the diagnosis.  These include:

  • Blood test
  • Edrophonium Test
  • MRI or CT scan
  • EMG
  • Nerve conduction studies

Myasthenia Gravis treatment

The treatment for MG is designed individually and is focused on providing relief to the patient. This may involve any or a combination of the following methods:

  • Medications such as immunosuppresants, corticosteroids and cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Therapies like IV immune globulin and plasmapheresis
  • Surgery

Myasthenia Gravis Pictures


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