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Myasthenia Gravis Signs and Symptoms

Myasthenia Gravis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects skeletal muscles. The body’s immune system attacks the muscles’ acetylcholine receptors, which means that the muscles can no longer contract normally and they become weak.

Up to 80 percent of a person’s receptors can be damaged. One type of myasthenia gravis affects the eyes only, giving them a droopy, sleepy appearance. Often this form of the disease develops later into the more generalized form. A wide variety of other autoimmune diseases are also seen with myasthenia gravis, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, alopecia, and more.  We have put together a list of common signs and symptoms of myasthenia gravis below.

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis include:

  • Fatigue that Worsens as the Day Progresses
  • Drooping or Weak Eyelids
  • Double Vision
  • Difficulty Holding One’s Head Up or Carrying Things
  • Excessive Muscle Weakness, Especially After Exertion
  • Slurred Speech
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Difficulty Speaking or Swallowing, Frequent Gagging or Choking
  • Paralysis
  • Hoarseness or Changing Voice

Diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis

With many patients, the eye muscles are affected first, even though reflexes and sensation are normal. Progressive weakness may affect the arms, legs and swallowing in time.

Tests can include:

  • nerve conduction and single-fiber EMG.
  • The presence of acetylcholine receptor antibodies can be tested for.
  • A Tensilon test can be use by an experienced doctor to evaluate baseline muscle strength.
  • A doctor may prescribe a CT or MRI scan of the chest to check for a thyroid tumor.
  • X-rays can indicate pneumonia, because pneumonia is a common side effect of myasthenia gravis.

Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis Disease

There is no known cure for myasthenia gravis, but certain medications can be given to improve nerve communication and to suppress the immune response of the body. This may result in prolonged periods of remission.

Plasmapheresis, a technique where blood plasma containing antibodies are removed and replaced with antibody-free plasma (donated), may minimize symptoms for up to 4-6 weeks. This procedure is used to optimize conditions before surgical removal of the thymus (thymectomy) is performed.

Patients with droopy eye problems may be given a lens prism to improve vision, or have surgery to improve eye muscle strength.

Many medications can make muscle weakness worse, so it is important to check with your doctor regarding side-effects of any drugs that may be prescribed.

We strongly suggest implementing a natural approach to address the underlying autoimmune response in conjunction with any effective conventional allopathic treatments. Natural detoxification, suppplementation and proper diet can be used to support and rebalance the immune system. Since allopathic medicine typically only treats the symptoms, it is important to address the underlying cause of the autoimmune response to have the best chance for long-term recovery.

Books for People With Signs and Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis:

The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Myasthenia Gravis: A Revised and Updated Directory for the Internet Age
Icon Health Publications
Myasthenia Gravis Medical Guide
Qontro Medical Guides

The Mysterious Illness-Myasthenia Gravis
Hazel Smart
Living Well with Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You…That You Need to Know
Mary J. Shomon

Myasthenia Gravis Resources

General Patient Resources

  • Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc.

The Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA) is the only national volunteer health agency in the United States dedicated solely to the fight against myasthenia gravis. MGFA has over 20 Chapters around the United States serving patients and their families and caregivers through support groups and programs. Each chapter shares the vision of a world without MG.

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

A Myasthenia Gravis fact sheet from the National Institute of Health.

  • The Australian Myasthenic Association in NSW

Find other Myasthenia Gravis groups and research from around the world.

  • MD Junction

Myasthenia Gravis Forums. Discussions, Q&A and friends dealing with Myasthenia Gravis

  • Daily Strength

A Myasthenia Gravis support group.

Medical Resources

  • Mayo Clinic

Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, causes, treatment of this muscle weakness disorder.

  • Medicine Net . com

Learn about myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease which symptoms include eye weakness, facial expression weakness, and difficulty swallowing.