Myasthenia Gravis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Have you ever felt general muscle weakness after performing some activity that only goes away after a few minutes of rest? If you have, then there is a chance that you may have a condition referred to as myasthenia gravis. Of course, engaging in a strenuous activity comes with the guarantee of exhaustion, but when it happens after engaging in a very small-scale task, like eating or walking up a flight of stairs, then that is a different case altogether.

When you eat, and you feel that your jaws become increasingly tired when you chew or swallow, it is highly plausible that you have myasthenia gravis. This is a chronic condition that is characterized by general muscle tire and weakness after an easy activity. It usually affects the muscles that control the eyes and eyelids first, but it spreads to the rest of the skeletal muscles with time, even the ones that control breathing, which can be a serious case of myasthenia gravis all on its own.

What Causes Myasthenia Gravis?

Basically, myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease. As with all autoimmune diseases, the immune system produces antibodies that mistake healthy body cells as threats, and in so doing, attack them. The nerves are responsible for general muscle control throughout the body, and they do so via receptors, and a special chemical referred to as acetylcholine. The antibodies, therefore, attack the acetylcholine receptors, and this weakens the muscle contraction process. The slightest physical activity, therefore, results in immediate muscle weakness and tire.

The Symptoms

Since myasthenia gravis attacks the skeletal muscles in the body, most of the accompanying symptoms usually involve any sort of movement connected to these muscles. As a result, some of these symptoms include:

  • Walking difficulties, especially up the stairs
  • Facial paralysis
  • General body fatigue
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing, chewing, swallowing, and talking

The symptoms usually get worse with the level of exertion in a particular activity and quickly go away after you rest. As stated earlier, the muscles that control the eyes and the eyelids are usually the first target; after a year or so, the rest of the skeletal muscles become affected next. Another thing worth noting is that these symptoms typically vary from one person to the next, but if left untreated, they only get worse with time.

Diagnosis and Treatment?

When it comes to diagnosing myasthenia gravis, doctors usually perform a complete physical exam and also do a workup history to check if you have any of the symptoms associated with the disease. Such exams are aimed at checking whether your body reflexes are okay, muscle tone, muscle weakness examination, among others.

However, after the tests are done and found to be conclusive, preferable treatment can be administered. Since there is no cure for myasthenia gravis, the treatment is intended to manage the symptoms and control the over-activity of the immune system to stop, or otherwise, minimize its attack on the nerves. As such, treatment can be in the form of:

  1. Medication
  2. Plasmapheresis
  3. Thymectomy (removal of the thymus gland), or
  4. Intravenous immune globulin

Notably, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can adopt to alleviate the accompanying symptoms exclusively.

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