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Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic condition that affects the autoimmune system. It causes problems with the transmission of signals from the nerves to the muscles. The nerves act as messengers for the body, sending signals to muscles that tell them when to move.

Myasthenia gravis is a condition that interferes with those signals.

It sends out antibodies that block nerve receptors from receiving acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. The antibodies are produced by the body’s own immune system, which is what makes myasthenia gravis an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases are conditions that cause the body’s immune system to turn on itself.

Myasthenia gravis usually only affects a select group of muscles. The most common are the eyes, eyelids, face, and swallowing muscles, but any group of skeletal muscles can be affected.

In the early stages, myasthenia gravis mostly affects the muscles that control eye movement, facial expression, chewing and swallowing. As the condition progresses, neck and limb muscles may also be affected, causing difficulty with holding the head up, walking upstairs and raising the arms.

Myasthenia gravis is not fatal on its own nor does it shorten life expectancy, but there is no cure as of yet. However, treatment can help patients control the symptoms and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Causes of Myasthenia Gravis

No one knows what causes the body to attack its own cells. The thymus, a gland located in the chest just above the heart, is involved in immunity early in life. The thymus gland is thought to be the site of abnormal antibody production in myasthenia gravis, although its precise role is not yet understood.

Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis

Symptoms of myasthenia gravis are different depending on which muscles are affected. Some common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uncontrolled changes in facial expression.
  • Weakness in the arms, hands, fingers, legs and neck.

Diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis

When a patient is exhibiting symptoms of myasthenia gravis, doctors will start with a physical exam to assess their condition. Some tests used to diagnose myasthenia gravis may include:

Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis may not be curable yet, but it can be controlled. There are several treatment options. These include:

Lifestyle Changes


  • Cholinesterase inhibitors will enhance communication between nerves and muscles.
  • Corticosteroids will inhibit the immune system and limit antibody production.
  • Immunosuppressants will help alter your immune system.
  • Plasmapheresis is a filtering process that removes antibodies from the blood.
  • Intravenous immunoglobin will provide the body with normal antibodies that regulate the body’s immune system.

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