Myasthenia Gravis Awareness

June 23, 2013

Myasthenia Gravis is a chronic neuromuscular/autoimmune disorder; its hallmarks are increased and varying degrees of weakness in the voluntary muscles in  the body. Myasthenia Gravis is often characterized by weakness in the muscles that control eye movements, eyelids, arm and leg movements, breathing, coughing, facial expressions, swallowing, and chewing. It often presents as eyelid drooping (ptosis), double vision, difficulties in breathing, speaking, or eating, and generalized fatigue, even with minimally exertive activities. While there is no cure for this disease, treatments are available which can increase quality of life and decrease symptom significance.

Myasthenia Gravis is caused by a communication breakdown between the nervous system and muscles due to damage from the autoimmune nature of the disease; muscle contractions are prevented from successful occurrence by this disease, leading to complications and annoyance on part of the affected person. In Myasthenia Gravis, the thymus gland does not decrease in size as it does in a person without the disease; sometimes, thymomas (tumors of the thymus) can occur. While generally benign, caution must be taken as tumors have the capacity for malignancy. While Myasthenia Gravis can occur in any ethnicity or age group, it is most common in women under 40 and men over 60.

Often, the first symptom subjectively noted in Myasthenia Gravis is eye muscle weakness; any presentation of a unilateral or bilateral eyelid droop is cause for evaluation by your eye care provider. Further, this disease may cause double vision or blurred vision; as with abnormal presentation of eyelid droop, any double vision or sudden presentation of blurred vision warrants a visit to your eye doctor!

The diagnostic testing for Myasthenia Gravis can be varied, but often includes a medical history review, testing of eye movement capabilities, an ice test in patients with ptosis (testing is done to ascertain if ptosis reduces with ice), bloodwork, and a chest CT or MRI to monitor for thymoma presence. Treatment for this disease can be a compilation of approaches, from medication to surgical removal of the thymus gland to dietary and activity changes. Patients with Myasthenia Gravis may especially benefit from solid sleep every night, an increase in daily levels of Vitamin D, Calcium, and fiber, and an increase in aerobic exercise (within fatigue limitations).