Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic medical condition that is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease. With myasthenia gravis a person will experience weakness of the voluntary, or skeletal, muscles throughout the body. Myasthenia gravis causes interference in the communication between the nerves and muscles. This causes the muscles to tire quickly after any physical activity. Usually people with myasthenia gravis will live a full life since this disease does not lessen the life expectancy of a person. There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but there are some treatment options that can help relieve some of the symptoms.

Some of the muscles that may possibly be included in this disorder are the ones used to control facial expressions, talking chewing, swallowing and eyelid or eye movements. Also muscles involving the movement of the limbs and neck may be affected, as well as the muscles that control breathing mechanisms.

The cause of the disease myasthenia gravis is believed to stem from the thymus gland. The thymus gland is part of our immune systems and when a person has myasthenia gravis it is believed that the thymus gland may become overactive and produce certain antibodies that block and destroy the body’s muscle receptor sites. These receptor sites are supposed to allow neurotransmitters, chemicals from our nerves, to fit perfectly into them to allow for communication between the nerves and the muscle cells. When these receptor sites are unavailable the muscles are not receiving the nerve signals, therefore causing weakened muscles.

In order to diagnose myasthenia gravis the doctors may perform one or more of the following tests. The Edrophonium test, blood analysis, nerve stimulation, single-fiber electromyography (EMG), or a CT or MRI, are all tests that may help determine if you have myasthenia gravis.

The edrophonium test is when the chemical edrophonium is injected into the body to see if a sudden improvement in muscle strength becomes apparent. Blood analysis is performed to see in there is a presence of antibodies that are abnormal in the blood. If they are abnormal then they may be causing conflict between the receptor sites and the neurotransmitters. Repetitive Nerve Stimulation is a study where electrodes are used over the muscles that are weakened to see how well the nerves are able send signals to the muscles. Single-fiber Electromyography (EMG) is used to measure the electrical activity that travels from your brain to your muscles. By inserting a tiny wire electrode into a specific muscle fiber it tests the strength of that particular muscle fiber. Lastly, a CT scan or an MRI scan may be done in order to look for a tumor or other problems involving the thymus gland.

When it comes to treating myasthenia gravis there may be one treatment or several used in conjunction to alleviate symptoms. Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors may be prescribed to help with communication between the muscles and the nerves. Corticosteroids help boost the immune system but should only be used short term to avoid side effects from the drug. Immunosuppressants may also be used to alter the immune system.

Plasmapheresis is a procedure used to filter your blood through a machine and remove the antibodies that are causing the blockage of signals between the nerve endings and the receptor sites in the muscles. Intravenous immune globulin gives your body normal antibodies which can help with your immune system’s response. Both of these methods can take a while to work and usually the results are only temporary.

Lastly, surgery may be performed to remove a tumor in the thymus gland if that is the source of the problem.

If you feel that you may be suffering from this condition you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Without a diagnosis you cannot start a treatment plan that can help you feel better.

Last updated on Jul 2nd, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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