Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disorder characterized by weakness of voluntary muscles, which often improves with rest and worsens with activity. The weakness occurs when the nerve impulse to move does not properly reach the muscle cells. This is caused when immune cells target and attack the body's own cells (an autoimmune response). The cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. In some cases, myasthenia gravis may be associated with tumors of the thymus (an organ of the immune system). Patients have a higher risk of other autoimmune disorders like thyrotoxicosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus.
While myasthenia gravis affects about 3 of every 10,000 people, it is most common in young women and older men. Symptoms include vision problems, muscle weakness, paralysis, drooping head, fatigue, drooling, as well as difficulty climbing stairs, talking, swallowing and breathing. Treatment can result in prolonged periods of remission. Lifestyle adjustments may prolong continuation of many activities. Activity should be planned to allow scheduled rest periods. Some medications improve communication between the nerve and the muscle. Prednisone and other medications that suppress the immune response may be helpful when symptoms are severe.
For more information about myasthenia gravis and available treatments, contact us.