What is Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is a chronic neuromuscular disease that produces weakness. MG derives its name from Latin and Greek words meaning “grave muscle weakness”. The disease is characterized by abnormal weakness of voluntary muscles (those muscles controlled by will). This weakness increases with activity and decreases with periods of rest.
MG is an autoimmune disease which involves a malfunction at the junctions between nerves and muscles. The body manufactures abnormal antibodies which prevent the muscles from responding properly to the signals from the nerves. To date research has not revealed what activates the malfunction initially.
The current treatments for MG are effective and the outlook for most patients is bright. Learning to live with MG requires some adjustments that will affect you and your whole family. It is vital that you and your family completely understand the illness and its treatment. No known cure has been discovered to date.
Positive Future Prospects
Myasthenia Gravis, with proper treatment, is no longer a life threatening disease. Most patients will show significant improvement in their muscle weakness. In some cases, MG may go into remission, in which case the muscle weakness disappears. Remission may last as long as many years and during these periods, treatment may not be necessary. For most MG patients, a new norm quality of life is possible with consistent use of prescribed treatments, adjustment to a less stressful lifestyle, balanced diet, exercise, and more frequent rest.
Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis
Symptoms may be any of the following, alone or in combination. Their severity may vary from person to person and from time to time:
- Drooping eyelids
- Double vision
- Difficulty controlling facial expressions
- Difficulty with chewing and swallowing
- Slurred speech
- Weakness in arms, legs or neck, difficulty in climbing, standing or holding head erect
- Inability to raise arms over the head
- Difficulty in breathing
- Difficulty smiling
Who Gets It?
It occurs in both sexes, all races and all age groups. Most commonly it first appears in women between the ages of 20 and 40 and in men over 50. In general MG is being diagnosed more often in the elderly than it was in the past. It is not transmittable to others and with rare exceptions is not hereditary.