Myasthenia gravis is a condition in which there is a tiredness and weakness of the voluntary muscles. This condition generally affects the eye movements first. It is called as myasthenia gravis due to a miscommunication or absence of communication between muscles and nerves.

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Is Myasthenia Gravis Life Threatening?

Myasthenia gravis is a non-curable condition. The symptoms can be managed with the help of an efficient treatment protocol and medications. Myasthenia gravis occurs in mild or severe forms. Most mild forms of myasthenia gravis do not require any treatment. Even the moderate forms can be managed well with treatment and medications and you can perform your routine work without a hitch. The complications arising in myasthenia gravis can also be managed well with treatment and are usually treatable.

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Some rare complications, however, can be life threatening. These complications include-

Myasthenic Crisis-

  • This is a life- threatening condition which is seen when the muscles responsible for controlling breathing get affected and become so weak that they cannot perform their job
  • In this condition, emergency treatment is to be carried out and assistance with mechanical breathing might be needed.
  • Certain medications may help you in breathing better and again. (1)

Tumors Of The Thymus Gland-

  • Thymus gland is associated with your immunity system
  • Those having myasthenia gravis are usually seen with an overly sized thymus gland and also tumors of thymus gland in some cases. These tumors are usually not cancerous or malignant
  • A hyperactive or hypoactive thyroid gland can be seen in people with myasthenia gravis
  • People with myasthenia gravis may also suffer from autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. (1)

Treatment Of Myasthenia Gravis

Treatment of myasthenia gravis may include a single therapy or a combination of two or more therapies, as per the condition of the person. Medications may include-

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Cholinesterase Inhibitors-

  • These medicines improve the communication or interaction between the muscles and nerves
  • Medicines cannot cure myasthenia gravis, but these can improve muscle strength
  • There may be some side effects associated with these medicines, like gastric upset, nausea, sweating etc.

Corticosteroids-

  • These medicines limit the antibody production by working on the immune system
  • However, these medicines cannot be given for a longer duration because of the hazardous side effects they may cause

Immunosuppressants-

  • These medicines may modify your immune system and provide relief from some symptoms
  • However, there are great risks associated with these medicines in terms of side effects

Other Therapies To Treat Myasthenia Gravis May Include-

Plasmapheresis-

  • This procedure refers to a filtering process, just like dialysis is done for kidneys
  • This process removes the antibodies that are responsible for blocking the receptors
  • The benefits of this procedure, however, last for only a few days
  • Risks associated with this procedure are inaccessibility to the vein, hypotension, bleeding, arrythmias etc.

Intravenous Immunoglobulin-

  • In this process, normal antibodies are introduced in the body. This modifies the response of the immune system
  • This process involves lower risks compared to other procedures. However, this process may take some time to show significant results
  • The effects also do not last for more than a few weeks

Surgery For Myasthenia Gravis

  • Those suffering from myasthenia gravis usually have tumors of the thymus gland
  • These tumors may be removed with the help of surgery
  • If tumors are not present, the enlarged thymus gland may be removed
  • However, this procedure also takes time to show significant results

The mode of treatment depends upon several factors including the age of the person, the severity of the condition, the site of the affected muscles and other medications on-going if any. (2)

Conclusion

Myasthenia gravis cannot be cured. However, with proper and a timely treatment, the condition can be managed, and the symptoms can be alleviated. Most people do not require any kind of treatment and can go about their routine work without a hitch. Complications arising in myasthenia gravis can be treated. However, occasionally some complications like myasthenic crisis, can prove to be life threatening.

References-

  1. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Myasthenia-Gravis-Fact-Sheet#6
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myasthenia-gravis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352036

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: May 13, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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