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Myasthenia Gravis – Facts, Symptoms & Treatments

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What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia Gravis, or MG for short, is from the Greek and Latin words for “grave muscular weakness.”It is a chronic autoimmune disease that is known for ocular MG, since weakness causing drooping eyelids is a marker for the disease. However, Myasthenia Gravis isn’t limited to the eye area; it can affect any voluntary muscle group and interfere with daily life. Simple activities or actions, like picking up a coffee mug or chewing, can be exhausting and leave the muscles and body weak. All our voluntary muscles are controlled by neural impulses, and MG means that when an impulse travels from the brain down the nerve fibers, the receptors that cause muscle movement are blocked or impaired. People with Myasthenia Gravis have about 80% less active receptors, and this lack of working receptor sites cause the muscle weakness. 1 in 5000 Americans may have MG, but experts believe the numbers are lower than the amount of people actually experiencing the disease.

Myathenia Gravis Symptoms

Myasthenia Gravis is most common in women age 20-40, and men aged 50-70, though any age, race and gender are susceptible. It is not contagious, and isn’t believed to be hereditary, even though sometimes more than one member of a family will have MG. Symptoms of MG include vision problems such as one droopy eyelid, blurring or double vision. People suffering with MG will commonly deal with weakness in limbs and constant muscle fatigue, so they will have difficulty shrugging, lifting arms, standing up or climbing stairs. Muscle fatigue can further lead to slurred speech, trouble chewing, swallowing, smiling or breathing. If breathing problems become serious, seek emergency medical care.

Myasthenia Gravis Treatment

To diagnose Myasthenia Gravis, medical professionals can administer activity/rest tests, blood tests, or EMG tests. Do note that testing negative on these tests does not mean definitively that the patient does not have MG, and diagnosis often takes time since muscle weakness is a common symptom in other conditions that would need to be ruled out. The tests are ways to diagnose, but people can always meet with a specialized clinician for further expert opinion. Once diagnosis is confirmed, people with Myasthenia Gravis can manage their condition with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors or immunosuppressants. Medications like Mestinon, Prednisone, Cellcept, Imuran and Cyclosporine are used to treat MG. There is no cure for Myasthenia Gravis, but people can go into remission on their own. It is especially helpful to incorporate rest and a nutritious diet alongside medications. People with MG can also talk to their physicians about procedures like plasmapheresis, intravenous immunoglobulins, and thymectomy to improve condition.

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