Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is not directly inherited or contagious, but more than one family member can be affected by it.
MG is an autoimmune disease that targets the communication point between the nerve and muscle (called the neuromuscular junction). In MG, antibodies block, alter, or destroy the neurotransmitter receptors on muscle tissue. Since the muscles can’t receive the signal to contract, people with MG can become weak.
Certain muscles are more involved such as eye movements, eyelids, chewing, swallowing, coughing and facial expressions. Breathing, as well as arm and leg movement can be affected. Weakness of muscles needed for breathing may cause shortness of breath, difficulty taking a deep breath and coughing. The disorder impacts each person differently and because of that, it is often called the “snowflake disease.”
In its severest form, MG involves many voluntary muscles, including those needed for breathing. The degree and distribution of muscle weakness for many patients falls in between these two extremes. When the weakness is severe and involves breathing, hospitalization is usually necessary.
In an article on myasenthiagravis.org, the hallmark of weakness related to MG is that it worsens with sustained activity of the involved muscle(s). Eye muscle weakness worsens with reading, and double vision may improve with a brief rest. When speech is affected, symptoms worsen with prolonged talking.
A news article published by MG News reports that the disease can mimic the symptoms of a stroke and should not be ruled out even in younger patients.
In more than half of the people who develop MG, their first signs and symptoms involve eye problems. This can include one or both of their eyelids drooping, getting double vision, which may be horizontal or vertical, and can improve or go away when one eye is closed.
In about 15 per cent of people who develop MG, face and throat muscles are impacted which can impair speaking as speech may sound soft or nasal. Swallowing becomes harder causing people to choke easier when eating, drinking or taking pills. There are incidents when people try to swallow, and it comes out of their nose. The muscles used for chewing wear out halfway during a meal, especially if the person is chewing on something hard such as steak. Facial expressions also change, as a smile may look like a snarl. Leg weakness impacts how people walk, while weak neck muscles make it hard to hold your head.
The start of MG is usually gradual over weeks or months but may be more sudden. Symptoms may come and go over time, and even resolve completely for months or longer. Symptoms often are not immediately recognized as MG, especially if they are subtle or variable.
MG symptoms differ somewhat for MG patients who test positive for MuSK antibodies. Most MuSK MG patients are women and tend to have more severe symptoms. Researchers have found that this group often require higher doses of prednisone and tend to improve more with plasmapheresis than IV-Ig treatments.
It is recommended that you speak to a doctor if you have difficulty breathing, seeing, swallowing, chewing, walking, using your arms or hands and holding up your head.
Although treatments currently exist for MG, more research is needed into finding more suitable treatments and cures. Clinical research is crucial to find advancements in care and provide additional treatment options to patients.
For more information about research in your local area please contact the Medical Arts Health Research Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at https://healthresearch.ca.