Myasthenia Gravis

What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness. It occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that attack the end plates of the neuromuscular junction, the site where nerve cells meet muscle cells. The result is a disruption of the neuromuscular transmission, which leads to muscle weakness. Symptoms of myasthenia gravis can range from mild to severe, and include drooping eyelids, double vision, difficulty speaking and problems with swallowing.

Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis

The symptoms of myasthenia gravis vary widely from person to person, but the most common are:

  • Drooping of the eyelids (ptosis)
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Weakness of the facial muscles leading to a “mask-like” expression
  • Difficulty talking and speaking clearly
  • Difficulty swallowing and choking on food or saliva
  • Weakness of the neck, shoulder, and arm muscles
  • Muscle fatigue affecting the arms and legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired vision
  • Generalized fatigue/weakness
  • Depression

Diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis

Diagnosis of myasthenia gravis relies on a thorough medical history – including a family history of autoimmune disorders – and a physical and neurological exam. In addition, laboratory tests such as blood tests, EMG, nerve conduction studies and a skin biopsy may be performed.

Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis

Treatment of myasthenia gravis typically includes medications, such as anticholinesterases and immunomodulatory drugs, to help reduce the muscle weakness. However, there are other therapies that may help, such as plasmapheresis, which is a procedure used to remove antibodies from the blood, and surgery for humans with thymoma, a type of tumor. In addition, physical therapy can help to build up muscles that have been weakened by the disease.