Myasthenia gravis – Symptoms, causes & complications

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Myasthenia gravis

This condition is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any of the muscles under the voluntary control. This condition is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between your nerves and your muscles.

There is not cure for this condition. The treatment which is used for myasthenia gravis can help you to get a relief from the symptoms, such as drooping eyelids, double vision, weakness of arm or leg muscles and difficulties with breathing, swallowing, chewing and speech. This condition can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly seen in women younger than 40 and men older than 60.

Contents

Symptoms

Myasthenia gravis

It is known that the muscle weakness caused by myasthenia gravis can worsen as the affected muscle is used repeatedly. Usually, symptoms improve with rest which means that your symptoms can come and go. But the symptoms of myasthenia gravis tend to progress over time and usually they are reaching their worst in a period of a few years after the onset of the myasthenia gravis. This condition can affect any of the muscles which will control voluntarily, but certain muscle groups are more commonly affected than others.

  1. Eye muscles: It is noticed that in more than half people who develop myasthenia gravis, their first signs and symptoms are involving eye problems, such as
  • Double vision (also called diplopia), which may be horizontal or vertical and improves or resolves when one eye is closed
  • Drooping of one or both eyelid (ptosis)
  1. Face and throat muscles: It is noticed that in 15% people who suffer from myasthenia gravis, the first symptoms are involving face and throat muscles and this can cause:
  • Limited facial expressions
  • Problems chewing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Altered speaking
  1. Neck and limb muscles: This condition can cause weakness in your legs, arms and neck, but this usually occurs along with muscle weakness in other parts of your body, such as throat, face or eyes. This disorder usually is affecting arms more often than legs. If the myasthenia gravis affects your legs, then you may waddle when you walk. If your neck is weak, then it can be hard for you to hold up your head.

Causes

This is a neuromuscular disorder which is usually caused by an autoimmune problem. Autoimmune disorder is happening when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. In autoimmune disorders, antibodies are attacking the neuromuscular junction.

The damage which is caused to the neuromuscular membrane is reducing the effect of neurotransmitter substance which is very important for the communication between the nerve cells and muscles which is resulting in muscle weakness. The exact cause for this autoimmune reaction is not known. There are some theories in which are said that bacterial or viral proteins can prompt the body to attack the acetylcholine. There are some factors which can worsen the myasthenia gravis, such as stress; illness; fatigue and medications (like some antibiotics, certain anesthetics, phenytoin, quinidine sulfate, beta blockers and quinine).

Complications

Complications caused by myasthenia gravis are treatable but they can be life – threatening. Here are some complications caused by myasthenia gravis:

Thymus tumors: It is noticed that about 15% of people who have myasthenia gravis have a tumor in their thymus which is a gland under breastbone that is involved with the immune system. Most of the thymomas tumors are not cancerous.

Myasthenic crisis: This is a life – threatening condition which is happening when the muscles that are controlling breathing are becoming too weak to do their job.

Autoimmune conditions: Those people who suffer from myasthenia gravis are having increased chances to have autoimmune conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Underactive or overactive thyroid: Thyroid gland is located in the neck. It secretes hormones which are regulating your metabolism. If your thyroid is underactive, then you may have difficulties with weight gains, cold and other issues. The overactive thyroid can cause difficulties with weight loss, heat and other issues.

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