June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month!
Hey, friends! Glad you could make it back for another awareness blog today! Today we’re going to be talking about Myasthenia Gravis, which is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease, which is a rare disease. If you recall from my post about scleroderma, I am really passionate about raising awareness for diseases that most people have never heard about. The reason I care so much about rare diseases is because rare disease patients deal with constant misunderstanding or ignorance and have to so much adversity to overcome. When I say adversity, I mean that they have to fight for medication, accommodation when needed, and even diagnosis at times. Most rare disease patients spend years going from doctor to doctor trying to find a doctor who can figure out what’s wrong with them. Not all doctors are adept in recognizing, diagnosing, or treating rare diseases. People with rare diseases are forced to explain their condition whenever it’s relevant because most people haven’t heard of it before. It sucks and it’s exhausting. So, today, we’re going to educate ourselves on a rare disease so that we are informed individuals
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic condition with no cure, but it can be managed and controlled. It affects the muscles, and causes them to become tired or weak very easily. Weakness comes and goes, made worse from use and gets better from rest. Like many other chronic conditions, patients with Myasthenia gravis will experience periods of worsened symptoms, called exacerbations, as well as periods where symptoms are more controlled and less severe. One of the hallmarks of this particular disease is that the muscles become weakened from use, but get better after rest.
Myasthenia gravis can affect anyone. Typical diagnosis periods vary by sex. Men with the disease usually develop it between the ages of 50 and 70, while women with myasthenia gravis tend to be diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. Sometimes, babies born to a mother with myasthenia gravis will experience temporary myasthenia gravis symptoms due to the transfer of antibodies in the mother to the baby during birth through the bloodstream. Neonatal myasthenia can be very dangerous, and even life threatening, but the baby’s body usually rids itself of the antibodies in the first couple of weeks. The baby then develops normal muscle function, strength, and tone.
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease. The immune system is responsible for fighting off things like a virus, bacteria, or other things that may threaten health. In autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly fights it’s own healthy cells. Each autoimmune disease attacks the body in different ways and places. In myasthenia gravis, the immune system affects the muscles by making antibodies which affects the nerve signals to the muscles, or blocks them entirely. Like other autoimmune diseases, diagnosing myasthenia gravis can take many years. Many autoimmune diseases share similar symptoms, and it sometimes takes awhile to decipher which disease is causing symptoms.
Symptoms of myasthenia gravis involve muscle weakness, which manifests in different ways in certain places of the body. One of the first symptoms patients recall noticing is in the eyes. Myasthenia gravis tends to cause eye muscle weakness early on in the disease process. This comes in the form of eyelid droopiness, and double vision and/or blurry vision. The clinical term for eyelid drooping is ptosis, and the blurry/double vision is called diplopia. Some patients have difficulty walking. Generally, patients experiencing weakness in the lower extremities exhibit an unusual or unstable gait, which basically just means walking pattern. Sometimes, patients have a change in facial expression when the muscles in the face become fatigued. One hallmark symptom of myasthenia gravis is difficulty swallowing. Many health issues can cause difficulty swallowing, but with this disease, it happens as a result of the esophagus weakening or becoming tired. This can be very dangerous, potentially, because of the risk for choking. Patients may also experience shortness of breath or difficulty speaking because the muscles responsible for both actions become weakened or fatigues. As you can see, muscle weakness is at the root of symptoms. It can occur all over the body, including areas not mentioned above such as the arms, hands, fingers, legs and neck.
Myasthenia gravis is neither contagious nor hereditary, although there is some evidence to suggest a genetic susceptibility to the disease. The disease is thought to develop as a result of the thymus gland giving developing immune cells the wrong message, resulting in the production of antibodies to the acetylcholine receptors. These receptors are responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles. One of the tests used to diagnose myasthenia gravis detects whether or not there are acetylcholine receptor antibodies present in the body. It is also believed that the disease may be caused by a virus or bacteria that triggers an autoimmune response, resulting in autoimmune dysfunction.
Myasthenic crisis is a critical and acute state caused by the disease. In myasthenic crisis, the muscles that are responsible for breathing become so weak that the patient is unable to breathe on their own. In severe cases it may even lead to complete lung failure. When this occurs, emergency ventilation is necessary to keep the person alive. There is no direct cause of myasthenic crisis. It is believed that anything that may trigger your normal myasthenia gravis symptoms to act up or worsen could potentially also lead to myasthenic crisis. Things that trigger the disease to act up include other illnesses, such as a cold or flu, pneumonia, or other lung infections. Changes in medicine, and hormones can also cause the disease to act up. Anything that causes stress on the body can trigger it, actually, for example surgery, or an accident, or being upset. Myasthenic crisis can be caused by a thymus tumor, which is a gland in the chest. The thymus is believed to be a source of myasthenia gravis. Some patients develop the disease as a result of a tumor on the thymus, while others develop it without any tumors. Some patients with myasthenia gravis who surgically remove their thymus, whether or not they have a tumor, recover remarkably. Myasthenic crisis can be diagnosed in a number of ways. Many of the ways to diagnose it include imaging such as x-rays, MRI’s, and CT/CAT scans to look at the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Doctors also use blood gas tests and pulmonary function tests. Blood gas tests are blood tests where they take blood directly from an artery to measure the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen present in it. This tells doctors how well your lungs are functioning. Pulmonary function tests show doctors how well your body is using oxygen. These tests are pretty easy and just require you to breathe into a mouthpiece for a little while.
The prognosis for myasthenia gravis varies greatly, and is dependent on how severely the individual patient’s disease is progressing. Patients who undergo surgery to remove their thymus have about a 50 percent rate of remission. I know you may be remembering that this disease is a chronic illness and cannot be cured, but you must remember that remission is not the same as a cure. Remission can come and go. Most patients lead pretty normal lives with the help of medicine. For some with advanced cases of the disease, the prognosis may be poor, even with all available medical care. There are many medications available for the treatment of myasthenia gravis, such as cholinesterase inhibitors, immunosuppressant’s, IVIG, plasmapheresis, and more. Thymectomy, which is the surgery to remove the thymus gland, are shown to be very successful in managing myasthenia gravis. There is a pretty positive outcome for patients who undergo the surgery. Some achieve full remission, while others have a significant reduction in symptoms or severity. This surgery is the most promising option for achieving remission without the need for medications on an ongoing basis. This only works for about 30 percent of the people who have the surgery, but even without full remission, around 50 percent have very favorable outcomes.
Alrighty, that’s all I’ve got for you today! Make sure you come back in a couple days for part two of the Men’s Health Week awareness blog! We’ll be picking up where we left off on the ten biggest killers.
If you’re new to the awareness blog, let me welcome you! I am so glad you decided to spare a few minutes to learn about this disease. Let give you a little bit of information on us. This blog is run by Personalized Cause, an awareness accessory company that specializes in custom awareness ribbons. Custom awareness ribbons are a unique product offered exclusively by Personalized Cause. With custom awareness ribbons, our customers have the option to personalize any one of our customizable ribbons with a name, date, phrase, or message of their choice. These custom awareness ribbons are unique in design, but also unique in that they require no minimum purchase. Order a bunch of the same, all different, or just a single custom awareness ribbon. It’s completely up to you. Personalized Cause believes in the power of awareness, which is why we’ve started this awareness blog. Our mission is to help you raise awareness for causes close to your heart with our line of awareness products, but also to raise awareness for as many causes as possible on our own. We strive to create a community of educated and compassionate people, while also calling attention to causes that may be unknown or misunderstood. I hope you’ll join us for our next installment of the awareness blog.
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