Myasthenia gravis

Overview

Type of disease: Rare conditions

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease that impacts an affected individual’s control of the skeletal muscles. The condition is typically seen in women below the age of 40, and in men above the age of 60. However, there are cases where MG has developed in individuals of all ages.

Symptoms of this condition may include muscle weakness, drooping eyelids, double vision, difficulty swallowing or eating, trouble talking, being unable to fully control facial expressions, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. The muscle weakness appears to increase after the individual is active, but then improves after rest.

Acetylcholine is a chemical that is normally present in the nervous system and is important for passing messages from the brain to the skeletal muscles. In individuals with MG, the body produces antibodies (proteins that are used to detect harmful agents in the body) which mistakenly attack certain sites that are responsible for receiving the acetylcholine messages. As a result, the symptoms of MG occur since the nervous system cannot communicate properly with the muscles. This response is an example of an autoimmune disease, where the body mistakenly begins attacking itself.

Removal of the thymus gland (an organ that is part of the immune system), blood plasma exchanges (where harmful antibodies are removed), and the use of certain types of medications are all current forms of treatment for MG. Other ways to manage the symptoms may include avoiding stressful situations and getting plenty of rest.

Although there is no cure for MG at this time, there are many treatment options available. Doctors seek help from various therapists and community services to provide support and care for families. Talk with a doctor or specialist if you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis to discuss the most current treatment options.

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