I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too. ~Elizabeth I
I know a woman who was recently diagnosed with this autoimmune disorder. I had not heard of this until I spoke with her, so I decided to learn more about it and share this with you.
Myasthenia gravis an autoimmune disease that causes weakness in the muscles under your control. It happens because of a problem in communication between the nerves and muscles. The body’s own immune system makes antibodies that block or change some of the nerve signals to your muscles. This makes the muscles weaker.
Who is affected:
Myasthenia gravis affects both men and women and occurs across all racial and ethnic groups. It most commonly impacts young adult women (under 40) and older men (over 60), but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Myasthenia gravis is not inherited nor is it contagious. Occasionally, the disease may occur in more than one member of the same family.
Common symptoms are:
Muscular: muscle weakness or weakness of the arms and legs
Facial: drooping of upper eyelid or muscle weakness
Also common: difficulty swallowing, double vision, fatigue, shortness of breath, or impaired voice
Although myasthenia gravis can affect any of the muscles that you control voluntarily, certain muscle groups are more commonly affected than others. Because symptoms usually improve with rest, your muscle weakness may come and go.
Your doctor may check your neurological health by testing your:
- Muscle strength
- Muscle tone
- Senses of touch and sight
The key sign that points to the possibility of myasthenia gravis is muscle weakness that improves with rest.
Other tests may be used to make a diagnosis:
- Edrophonium test
- Ice pack test
- Blood analysis
- Repetitive nerve stimulation
- Single-fiber electromyography (EMG)
- Imaging scans
- Pulmonary function tests
Doctors use a variety of treatments, alone or in combination, to relieve symptoms of myasthenia gravis.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg)
- Monoclonal antibody
About 15 percent of the people with myasthenia gravis have a tumor in their thymus gland, a gland under the breastbone that is involved with the immune system. If you have a tumor, called a thymoma, doctors will conduct surgery to remove your thymus gland (thymectomy).
If you don’t have a tumor in the thymus gland, surgery to remove the thymus gland may improve your myasthenia gravis symptoms. It may eliminate your symptoms, and you may be able to stop taking medications for your condition. However, you may not notice the benefits of a thymectomy for several years, if at all.
Your doctor will determine which treatment may be most appropriate for you based on several factors, including:
- Your age
- Severity of your condition
- Location of muscles affected
- Other existing medical conditions
If you have myasthenia gravis, it is important to follow your treatment plan.