Myasthenia Gravis

What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia Gravis is a rare condition resulting in the rapid weakness of any group of muscles that are under voluntary control. It is caused by a communication breakdown between the nerves and the muscles, usually due to the abnormal production of antibodies, and it tends to worsen as the muscle is used more frequently. While weakness will usually improve with a bit of rest, the condition itself will progress over a period of time, with symptoms being at their worst a few years after the disease first appears.

Myasthenia gravis can impact any group of muscles, but some are more commonly affected than others. Most cases see symptoms appearing in the muscles of the eyes, face, throat, limbs, and neck. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to life-threatening complications. Thymus tumors, myasthenic crisis, overactive or underactive thyroid, and autoimmune conditions have all been seen in patients with myasthenia gravis.

What are the Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis?

Exact symptoms will vary, as will severity and location.

Symptoms include

  • Weakness in limb muscles
  • Trouble with speech
  • Difficulties with chewing and swallowing
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

How is Myasthenia Gravis Treated?

Symptoms of myasthenia gravis can be treated with a variety of therapies, either in combination or alone. Doctors will determine which therapies have the best chance of success based on the patient’s age, disease severity, if other medical conditions are present, and which muscles are being affected.

Oral medications like immunosuppressants and corticosteroids inhibit the immune system and reduce antibody production, while cholinesterase inhibitors work to improve communication between the muscles and nerves. Other drugs can be given intravenously to remove excess antibodies, provide normal antibodies, or deplete white blood cells. Patients may require surgery if the condition has led to a thymus tumor or to remove the thymus gland to improve symptoms.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017