What Is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is generally an autoimmune disorder that causes the weakening of the skeletal muscles. It is a chronic condition, which weakens the muscles by hindering communication between nerves and muscles. This condition usually affects the voluntary muscles of the body, especially the muscles that control the movement of the eyes, and muscles that are present in the mouth, throat, and limbs.

Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis

This disorder targets the voluntary muscles of the body. When that weak muscle is used, it can exacerbate the condition. It is a progressive condition, which may go away for some time and reappear. This might keep happening again and again. After adequate resting of the muscle, the person may feel relief for some time.

As the condition mostly affects the muscles in the eyes, throat, mouth, and limbs, it can make it difficult to swallow or breathe. Some common symptoms of this chronic disease are as follows:

  • Heaviness in the eyelids or droopy eyes.
  • Double vision, known as diplopia.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Difficulty with chewing and swallowing.
  • Speech impairment.
  • Weakness in neck or limbs.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Changes in facial expressions.

Muscle weakness might worsen with each passing day, and if the person does not take enough rest, then the condition can become severe. Resting can be helpful in restoring muscle strength, as it gets to recharge itself during the resting period.

Causes of Myasthenia Gravis

According to the different studies, the factors that can lead to this chronic disease are:

Antibodies –For voluntary action to happen, the receptors of the muscles must receive the signals from the nerves present in your brain. The brain releases chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, which carry the signal to the receptor sites in the muscles.

In the person affected with myasthenia gravis, the immune system releases antibodies that damage the muscle receptor sites and prevent the transmission of signals from the brain. As the muscles fail to get the signal, the muscles remain non-responsive to the brain’s signals. This causes the weakening of the muscles.

Thymus gland

This gland is present in the chest, between the lungs. It is a part of the immune system and is responsible for making white blood cells (WBCs), called lymphocytes, which protect your body from infectious pathogens. The thymus also produces antibiotics and in myasthenia gravis patients, it is quite larger in size than usual.

As per the National Institutes of Health, in myasthenia gravis patients, this gland might interfere with the neurotransmitter action. It may block the muscle receptor from receiving the signals for developing immune cells. However, it sends wrong signals instead, which causes the immune system to attack its own cells and tissues and produce acetylcholine receptor antibodies to destroy the neuromuscular transmission.

Myasthenic crisis – This is a condition that arises when the muscle that supports and controls your breathing function gets severely damaged. It is a crisis situation as the patient needs ventilator support for breathing.

Factors that contribute to the worsening of Myasthenia Gravis

  • Stress – Some studies revealed that people with stress and depression disorders experience intense symptoms due to muscle damage. Mental health disorders like stress, depression, and anxiety can exacerbate the condition.
  • Fatigue – It is quite common among people with MG. They lack the motivation to do physical exercise and prefer a sedentary life. This can lead to loss of muscle strength even more.
  • Illness or infection – MG can get triggered due to infections. This happens because the immune system is already weak and if some infectious pathogens enter your body, it can make it even worse.
  • Surgery – Exacerbation of MG can happen after some surgical procedures too.
  • Pregnancy – The condition worsens as the females gain weight during pregnancy and tend to be more fatigued.
  • Medications – Side effects of certain medications can make it worse. Such medications include antibiotics, anesthetics, beta-blockers, quinine gluconate, quinine, phenytoin, etc.

Who is more likely to develop this disease?

According to the National Institutes of Health, this disorder can arise in people regardless of age. However, it is quite common and more frequently seen in females who are younger than 40 and males who are above 60. This condition is not contagious, and it does not even run in the family. The factors that cause this disease have nothing to do with inheritance.

Rarely, this disease might get passed on from a mother to the developing baby in the womb. Babies of females diagnosed with MG are more susceptible to the condition. The antibodies produced by the mother’s body may enter the placenta and affect the baby. This can make the baby very weak, and they may have difficulty sucking, and breathing.

Diagnosis and treatment

The healthcare provider will conduct your physical examination and ask you some general questions regarding your medical history and symptoms and their duration, etc. Further, they will suggest some tests to check your neurological health and response. Based on the diagnostics tests, they will prescribe some appropriate treatment, which might include – medications, therapies, or surgery.

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