What is myasthenia gravis?

What Is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes muscles weakness and rapid fatigue.

The term myasthenia gravis is Latin and Greek in origin, and means "grave muscle weakness."

However, current therapies allow most people with myasthenia gravis to have a normal life expectancy.


According to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA), about 20 out of 100,000 people in the United States live with the condition.

However, the MGFA states that the disease is probably underdiagnosed, so the prevalence may actually be higher.

Myasthenia gravis occurs in all races, both genders, and at any age. However, it most commonly affects women under 40 and men over 60.

While it's not contagious nor thought of as being inherited, the condition can occur in more than one member of the same family.

Causes of Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles.

This breakdown can be caused by the following:

Antibodies:Your nerves communicate with your muscles by releasing chemicals that fit into receptor sites on the muscle cells at the nerve-muscular junction.

If you have myasthenia gravis, your immune system produces antibodies that block or destroy many of your muscles' receptor sites for a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

This results in your muscles receiving fewer nerve signals, and in turn causes weakness.

Antibodies may also block the function of a protein involved in forming the nerve-muscular junction, which may lead to myasthenia gravis.

However, research continues to look into how this is related to the development of myasthenia gravis.

Thymus Gland:Experts think that a part of your immune system called the thymus gland, situated in the upper chest beneath your breastbone, may trigger or maintain the production of the antibodies that block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

While the thymus is small in healthy adults, it's large in those with myasthenia gravis.

In addition, tumors (which usually aren't cancerous) may be present in the thymus glands of people with myasthenia gravis.

Other Causes:If myasthenia gravis isn't caused by antibodies blocking acetylcholine or the muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase, it's called antibody-negative myasthenia gravis.

In these cases, antibodies working against another protein, called lipoprotein-related protein 4, may be the cause of the condition.

Genetic factors can also play a part.

For instance, while rare, babies whose mothers have myasthenia gravis may be born with it.

When treated immediately, they generally recover within two months after birth.

Some children may also be born with a rare form of the disease called congenital myasthenic syndrome.

What Can Make Myasthenia Gravis Worse?

The following can worsen the condition:

  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Stress
  • Extreme heat
  • Medications, such as beta blockers, quinidine gluconate, quinidine sulfate, quinine, phenytoin, some anesthetics, and some antibiotics

Complications of Myasthenia Gravis

While complications of myasthenia gravis are treatable, some can be life-threatening.

Complications may include the following:

  • Myasthenic crisis is a life-threatening condition that affects breathing and requires immediate treatment in order for the person to be able to breathe on their own.
  • Thymus tumors, which usually are not cancerous, occur in about 15 percent of people with myasthenia gravis, according to Mayo Clinic.
  • People with myasthenia gravis are more likely to have underactive or overactive thyroid and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Myasthenia Gravis in Dogs

Myasthenia gravis can occur in dogs.

It affects numerous breeds, with the condition mostly occurring between ages 2 and 4 years and 9 and 13 years.

Dogs may show signs of general muscular weakness that can range from some intolerance to exercise, which improves with rest, to all of their limbs being affected.

Like humans, dogs with this condition may also have non-cancerous tumors in the thymus.

Some dogs may have a hereditary form of the disease, often reported in Jack Russell terriers, springer spaniels, smooth fox terriers and dachshunds.

Signs of this hereditary condition usually become apparent between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Dogs may experience generalized muscular weakness associated with exercise that gets progressively worse, and eventually leads to paralysis and death.

However, dachshunds may have a better prognosis.

This form of myasthenia gravis can also occur in cats.

Video: 15 Years to Diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis • PHANIE TALKS

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Date: 09.12.2018, 14:13 / Views: 51595