What Is Myasthenia Gravis?
It is a chronic neuromuscular disease, which is marked by the weakness of skeletal (voluntary) muscles. It is an autoimmune disease wherein the extent of weakness tends to varies from sufferer to sufferer. Myasthenia gravis, the term means ‘grave muscle weakness’, though, thanks to the advanced therapies present nowadays, majority instances of the disease are not as serious as its name implies. However, as a matter of fact, most people with the disease have a normal expectancy of life.
Muscle weakness is the core characteristic of the disease. Muscle weakness associated with myasthenia gravis worsens during your motion periods, while turning better after relaxation. Muscles responsible for controlling our neck movements and breathing may become affected. However; specific muscles for example the ones responsible for controlling our swallowing, facial expression and eye movements are mostly affected.
What Are The Symptoms Of Myasthenia Gravis?
Even though, the disease can target any of your voluntary muscle, however muscles responsible for controlling your swallowing, facial expression and eye movements are most likely to get affected. Myasthenia gravis can occur suddenly, though, initially its symptoms tend to mimic some other conditions, making its diagnosis difficult. Initially, many people with myasthenia gravis notice weakness of their eye muscles whereas; others feel difficulty to swallow food. In addition to this, slurred speech also tends to be a common complain.
As mentioned earlier, the extent of muscle weakness vary from patients to patients. Myasthenia is divided into two forms:
- Generalized- several muscles are affected.
- Localized – only eye muscles are affected.
So, the symptoms that differ in severity and form can include:
- Double or blurred vision.
- Drooping of both eyelids.
- Unstable gait.
- Swallowing difficulties.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Weakness in your neck, hands, fingers, arms and legs.
- Change in your facial expression.
- Impaired speech.
What Causes Myasthenia Gravis?
A defect that affects the normal transmission of your nerve impulses to the muscles triggers myasthenia gravis. The interruption of communication occurs at the neuromuscular junction, a point where connection of nerve cells and muscles take place.
Normally, the nerve endings secrete acetylcholine (neurotransmitter substance), when impulses pass down the nerve. The substance then moves from the neuromuscular junction and connects to the activated acetylcholine receptors, this result in muscle contraction.
However in people with the disease, their antibodies destroy or block the receptors for the essential acetylcholine. This occurs at the neuromuscular junction. This stops the occurrence of muscle contraction.
According to the researchers, immune system is responsible for creating these harmful antibodies. As mentioned earlier, the disease is autoimmune; the immune system which is normally responsible for defending our body against foreign invaders erroneously attacks itself!
How Is Myasthenia Gravis Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose myasthenia gravis, the will:
- Carry out a thorough physical examination.
- Need complete details regarding your symptoms.
- Need to know your medical history.
Furthermore, he or she can suggest the following tests in order to confirm its diagnosis:
- Neurological examination.
- Edrophonium test.
- Ice pack test.
- Blood analysis.
- Repetitive nerve stimulation.
- Single-fiber electromyography (EMG).
- Imaging scans.
- Pulmonary function tests.
How Is Myasthenia Gravis Treated?
The doctor will prepare a treatment plan for you from the following treatment options: