Living With Myasthenia Gravis - A Ben's Friends Patient Support Community

7 facts and symptoms related to Myasthenia gravis

1. Your Eyes are Usually Affected First

This disease tends to attack muscle groups used for movement, meaning they are muscles that you have voluntary control of. Weakness can often be detected in the eyelids first, and the weakness can cause one or both eyelids to droop.

Myasthenia Gravis can also affect your vision. More specifically, it can cause diplopia (double vision) that will correct itself if you close one eye. The double vision can be vertical or horizontal.

2. It Can Affect Mobility and Breathing

While it starts primarily in the eyes, the disease can become more generalized and affect muscles responsible for lifting your arms, stand up, or walk up stairs.

The disease can also affect the muscles used for chewing, swallowing, and even smiling. Perhaps the worst-case scenario is that the disease can affect your ability to breathe (from weakness of the chest muscles), causing what is called a “myasthenic crisis” – which is a medical emergency.

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3. It’s an Over-40 Disease

Myasthenia Gravis typically affects those reaching middle age. That being said, it’s quite a rare condition, affecting only about 20 people per 100,000 in the U.S…

The disease is likely to occur in people over the age of 40, women tend to be diagnosed at an earlier age than men. The average age for diagnosis in men is typically 60-plus years of age or older.

4. It’s a Progressive Problem

Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis (or MG) tend to worsen over longer periods of time. The symptoms can fluctuate on a daily basis, with the most weakness in the evenings (after repeated muscle use) for the majority of people with MG.

The worse symptoms can arrive as early as 1-year or as late as 3-years, adds the source. In about 15-percent of sufferers the affected area doesn’t progress beyond the eyes, but most people with MG will experience weakness in other muscles.

5. It’s an Autoimmune Disorder

While the exact cause of MG is still being studied, scientists know it’s an autoimmune disease. This means your body’s immune system (which normally destroys foreign substances) mistakenly attacks healthy tissues.

This particular autoimmune disease causes your antibodies to break down a neurotransmitter substance called acetylcholine, which is important to the communication between your nerves and muscles, according to the source. This leads to less responsiveness and a feeling of weakness in the affected muscles.

6. There are Tests to Help Pinpoint the Problem

Fatigue of the muscles is common with a variety of diseases, specifically when they’re autoimmune-related. However, your doctor can order a special blood test to show if there are elevated levels of immune molecules or acetylcholine receptor antibodies, .

A second antibody called the anti-MuSK is found in about 30 to 40-percent of those with MG, although some patients do not have either acetylcholine receptors or MuSK present (mostly those who are only affected in the eyes). Physicians can also identify weakness caused by MG by administering edrophonium chloride into your bloodstream to briefly relieve the weakness caused by MG, or conduct an electromyography (EMG) test to detect problems with nerve and muscle communications.

7. There are Effective Treatment Options

There are no complete fixes available for MG, but doctors have some tools at their disposal to combat this disease. For example, your doctor may choose to go the medication route, prescribing corticosteroids and immunosuppressants that lessen the autoimmune severity.

More extreme measures such as surgery can also be considered, more specifically the removal of the thymus gland, which produces T-cells related to your immune system. While there is no cure, some patients can go into remission for long periods of time with or without treatment.

What symptoms do you have and how did they start?