Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any of the muscles under your voluntary control. Myasthenia gravis is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles. Though myasthenia gravis can affect people of any age, it's more common in women younger than 40 and in men older than 60.

Causes:

Under normal conditions, your nerves direct your muscles to work by sending a message through an area called a receptor. The chemical that delivers the message is called acetylcholine. When acetylcholine binds to a nerve receptor, your muscle knows to contract. In myasthenia gravis, you have fewer acetylcholine receptors than you need.

Myasthenia gravis is considered to be an autoimmune disorder. In an autoimmune disease, some of your body's antibodies (cells in your body that are supposed to be programmed to fight foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi) mistake a part of your own body as foreign, resulting in its destruction. In the case of myasthenia gravis, your antibodies attack and destroy the acetylcholine receptors needed for muscle contraction.

No one knows exactly what causes your body to begin producing the antibodies that destroy acetylcholine receptors. In some cases, the process seems to be related to the thymus gland, which helps produce antibodies. About 15% of all myasthenia gravis patients are found to have a thymoma, a tumor of the thymus. Although most thymomas are benign (unharmful), the thymus is usually removed (thymectomy) to prevent the potential spread of cancer. In fact, thymectomy seems to improve symptoms of myasthenia gravis in some patients, even if no tumor is present.

Symptoms:

Muscle weakness caused by myasthenia gravis worsens as the affected muscle is used repeatedly. Because symptoms usually improve with rest, muscle weakness may come and go. However, myasthenia gravis symptoms tend to progress over time, usually reaching their worst within a few years after the onset of the disease. Although myasthenia gravis can affect any of the muscles that you control voluntarily, certain muscle groups are more commonly affected than others.

Eye Muscles

In more than half the people who develop myasthenia gravis; their first signs and symptoms involve eye problems, such as:

  • Drooping of one or both eyelids (ptosis).
  • Double vision (diplopia), which may be horizontal or vertical, and improves or resolves when one eye is closed.

Face and throat muscles

In about 15 percent of people with myasthenia gravis, the first symptoms involve face and throat muscles, which can cause:

  • Altered speaking. Your speech may sound very soft or nasal, depending upon which muscles have been affected.
  • Difficulty swallowing. You may choke very easily, which makes it difficult to eat, drink or take pills. In some cases, liquids you're trying to swallow may come out your nose.
  • Problems chewing. The muscles used for chewing may wear out halfway through a meal, particularly if you've been eating something hard to chew, such as steak.
  • Limited facial expressions. Your family members may comment that you've "lost your smile" if the muscles that control your facial expressions have been affected.

Neck and Limb Muscles

Myasthenia gravis can cause weakness in your neck, arms and legs, but this usually happens along with muscle weakness in other parts of your body, such as your eyes, face or throat. The disorder usually affects arms more often than legs. However, if it affects your legs, you may waddle when you walk. If your neck is weak, it may be hard to hold up your head.

Complications

Complications of myasthenia gravis are treatable, but some can be life threatening.

Myasthenic crisis

Myasthenic crisis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the muscles that control breathing become too weak to do their jobs. Emergency treatment is needed to provide mechanical assistance with breathing. Medications and blood-filtering therapies help people to again breathe on their own.

Thymus tumors

About 15 percent of people with myasthenia gravis have a tumor in their thymus, a gland under the breastbone that is involved with the immune system. Most of these tumors, called thymomas, aren't cancerous (malignant).

Other disorders

People with myasthenia gravis are more likely to have the following conditions:

  • Underactive or overactive thyroid. The thyroid gland, which is in the neck, secretes hormones that regulate your metabolism. If your thyroid is underactive, you may have difficulties dealing with cold, weight gain and other issues. An overactive thyroid can cause difficulties dealing with heat, weight loss and other issues.
  • Autoimmune conditions. People with myasthenia gravis may be more likely to have autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Homoeopathy helps to achieve:

  • Control of the disease process
  • Symptomatic relief

Homeopathy has shown its efficacy in reducing the frequency of relapses and improving the power and tone of muscles. However, it may be noted that the improvement with homeopathy may not be as fast as one achieved by using the immunosuppressive medicines. The role of homeopathy is more as long-term control, rather than for acute crisis control. Homeopathy works at deeper level and brings deviations of immune system back to normalcy and in consequence minimizes the need of exogenous neurotransmitters or steroids as prescribed by conventional treatment.

 
 

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