Myasthenia Gravis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment!

Home » Myasthenia Gravis: Symptom, Causes and Treatment
Garry Stewart
Written By Shasta Wilson

April 21, 2023

Medical Condition - Myasthenia Gravis - symptoms, causes and treatment

Myasthenia Gravis refers to any muscles’ rapid fatigue and weakness under voluntary control.

Myasthenia Gravis is generally caused due to the breakdown in everyday communication among the muscles and nerves. The health condition can affect people of any age, but it is more common in women younger than 40 and men older than 60.

Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis

Muscle weakness caused due to this health condition worsens because the affected muscle is used. Since the symptoms generally improve with rest, the experience of muscle weakness can come and go.

Although the symptoms tend to progress over time and usually reach their worst within a few years. As the health condition can affect any muscles you control voluntarily; specific muscle groups are more commonly affected than others. This includes:

“Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic immune system problem where antibodies destroy the communication between nerves and muscle, which results in weakness of the skeletal muscles.”

1. Eye Muscles

In the majority of people with Myasthenia Gravis, the initial symptoms involve eye issues like

  • Drooping of one or both eyelids
  • Double vision that may be vertical or horizontal

2. Fact and Throat Muscles

In around 15 % of people with the health condition, the initial symptoms involve throat and face muscles that can

  • Impair speaking
  • The speech might sound nasal depending on which muscles have been affected.
  • Lead to difficulty swallowing
  • A person with a health condition might choke easily while making it difficult to drink, eat and take pills.

3. Modify facial expressions

When it comes to facial expressions, different people might experience various changes. For instance, a person’s smile might look like a snarl.

4. Affect chewing

The chewing muscles might tire halfway through a meal, especially when one has been eating something that is hard to chew.

5. Limb and neck muscles

Myasthenia Gravis can also lead to weakness in the arms, neck, and legs. Weak neck muscles make it challenging to hold up your head. Weakness in the legs can affect how you walk, and weakness in arms can affect how you work.

When do you need to see a medical doctor?

Take medical help immediately if you have

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Holding up your head
  • Using your arms or hands

Causes of Myasthenia Gravis

1. Antibodies

The nerves communicate with the muscles by liberating the chemicals that fit exactly into the receptor sites at the nerve-muscle junction.

In Myasthenia Gravis, the immune system develops antibodies that destroy or block several muscle receptor sites for a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. With the few receptor sites available, the muscles also receive fewer nerve signals, resulting in weakness. Antibodies can also block the protein function known as muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase. This protein is generally involved in forming the nerve-muscle junction.

The antibodies against this protein can cause Myasthenia Gravis.

2. Thymus Gland

Thymus Gland is the part of the immune system that is situated in the upper chest under the breastbone. According to the researchers, the thymus gland triggers the antibodies production that blocks acetylcholine.

3. Other Causes

Mothers with Myasthenia Gravis may have children inherently born with the disease. This form is usually known as a congenital myasthenic syndrome.

It happens rarely, but children can generally recover within two months after birth if such a case arises.

Factors affecting and worsening Myasthenia Gravis

  • Infection or illness
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Surgery
  • Several Medications
  • Menstrual Periods
  • Pregnancy

Complications Involved!

The good news is that the complications of the disease are treatable. However, some complications can be life-threatening too.

The complications include:

1. Myasthenic Crisis

It’s basically a life-threatening condition that takes place when the muscles that control the breathing become too weak to function.

Eventually, emergency treatment and assistance with breathing are required. However, blood filtering therapies and medications can help the patients breathe independently.

2. Thymus Gland Tumors

Several people with the health condition also have a tumor in the thymus gland. Most of such tumors are known as thymomas that are not cancerous.

3. Other disorders associated

People with the disease are more likely to have the following health conditions:

  • Overactive or underactive thyroid
    The thyroid gland present in the neck secretes the hormones which regulate the metabolism. If the thyroid is overactive, it can lead to issues in dealing with weight loss, heat, and other issues. If the thyroid is underactive, a person may have problems dealing with weight gain, cold, and other associated issues.
  • Autoimmune conditions
    People with health conditions are more likely to experience autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis

    The medical doctor will review the symptoms, medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination to diagnose the health condition. The doctor may recommend several tests to confirm the diagnosis.

    Neurological examination

    The medical doctor may verify the neurological health by testing

    • Muscle strength
    • Reflexes
    • Senses of sight and touch
    • Muscle tone
    • Balance
    • Coordination

    However, the tests to confirm the Myasthenia Gravis diagnosis might include

    • Ice Pack Test
    • Blood analysis
    • Repetitive Nerve stimulation
    • Imaging
    • Single Fiber Electromyography
    • Pulmonary Function tests

    Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis

    Several treatments, either in combination or alone, can mitigate the symptoms of myasthenia gravis. However, the treatment depends upon the age, how fast the disease is progressing and how severe the condition is.

    Medications are recommended for Myasthenia Gravis

    • Cholinesterase inhibitors
    • Corticosteroids
    • Immunosuppressants

    Intravenous Therapy for Myasthenia Gravis

    • Plasmapheresis
    • Intravenous Immunoglobulin
    • Monoclonal Antibody

    Surgery for Myasthenia Gravis

    Several people have a tumor in the thymus gland. So, if a person has a tumor, the medical doctors will surgically eradicate the thymus gland.
    However, the surgery to eradicate the thymus gland uses smaller incisions; it might involve

    • Video-assisted thymectomy
    • Robot-assisted thymectomy

    Home remedies and lifestyle changes

    Several lifestyle changes and home remedies can help you cope with the symptoms of the health condition. This includes:

    • Adjust the eating routine
    • Use the safety precautions at home
    • Use electric appliances and power tools
    • Wear an eye patch

    What queries you must get answered by the medical doctor?

    • Have your symptoms been occasional or continuous?
    • What is the cause of the disease?
    • How severe are the symptoms?
    • How to manage it?
    • How to cope with the severity of the disease?
    • What can trigger the symptoms?

    Bottom Line!

    The disease is challenging to cope with and requires a medical consultation. However, the long-term outlook of the illness depends upon several factors.

    Talk to your doctor to minimize the severity of your health condition as early diagnosis and proper treatment can limit the disease progression.

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