Myasthenia gravis is similar to fibromyalgia in a lot of ways. It causes weakness and fatigue. It affects the muscles. And it is a chronic disease that can seriously limit your quality of life. And raising awareness of myasthenia gravis is important because it raises awareness for all musculoskeletal disorders, fibromyalgia included.
So what exactly is myasthenia gravis? What are the symptoms? And what can you do to treat it?
What Is Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is a disorder that gradually weakens the muscles in the body, leading to a variety of symptoms and limiting your ability to live a normal life. This muscle weakness can affect muscles anywhere in the body, but there are a few areas, like the eyelids, that are usually affected first.
This muscle weakness will come and go throughout the day, sometimes being worse than at other times. But as the disease progresses it will usually get worse, and within a few years, the symptoms of the condition will peak. And as the disease affects the muscles in your legs, it may become difficult to walk.
The root of myasthenia gravis is actually in the immune system rather than the muscles. You see, your immune system produces something called antibodies that target foreign germs and destroy them. But sometimes these antibodies can actually begin blocking the signals between the nerves that control your muscles and the muscles themselves.
Your nerves control your muscles by sending chemicals called neurotransmitters that land on nerve receptors, signaling your muscles to lengthen and contract. But for reasons we don’t quite understand, sometimes the immune system begins attacking the body instead of foreign cells. This is what’s happening in someone with myasthenia gravis. The immune system is blocking or destroying your nerve receptors, making it harder to control your muscles. This difficulty produces a variety of symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms?
The first sign for most people with myasthenia gravis that something is wrong is a characteristic drooping of the eyelids. The muscles that control the eyelids get weaker, making it difficult to keep your eyes open all the way and even leading to blurred vision.
In addition, the muscles of the face and neck get weaker. As a result, someone with myasthenia gravis has a hard time chewing or swallowing. Sometimes, the muscles that help you chew can give out in the middle of a meal. You may even find your voice changing as the muscles involved in speech get weaker. And finally, your ability to make basic facial expressions like a smile might disappear. Doctors usually these sorts of signs along with a blood test for muscle-specific antibodies to diagnose the condition.
As we said before, you might also find you have a hard time walking as the condition progresses to your legs. Or you might walk with a wobbling gait. And in some cases, the thyroid glands of people with myasthenia gravis might develop tumors.
But the real danger comes when myasthenia gravis weakens the muscles that control vital things like breathing. This sort of episode is called a myasthenic crisis and requires immediate medical care. Make sure that if you ever feel like you’re having trouble breathing you see a doctor as soon as possible.
What Can You Do To Treat It?
There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but there are a few treatment options available to help manage the symptoms.
The first line of treatment is a drug called pyridostigmine which stimulates the nerve receptors, making it easier to move your muscles. But if that doesn’t work, the doctor may add a drug designed to help suppress the immune system. This prevents your body from making so many of the antibodies that are attacking your nerve receptors and causing your symptoms.
A final option is to actually have a treatment where your blood is pulled out of the body and the antibodies inside filtered out. This reduces the amount of antibodies that cause the symptoms. But it is a pretty invasive and time-consuming treatment you’ll have to do regularly, making it the last choice for treatment.
Generally, with treatment, it’s possible to live a fairly normal life with myasthenia gravis. And the odds of dying for it are very small. But that doesn’t mean much comfort to all the people who suffer from the condition. So let us know, do you have myasthenia gravis? How did it start? What did you do for treatment? How did your treatments work? Tell us in the comment section below.