The exact cause of myasthenia gravis is not known however, the condition is particularly found in those people who are at a certain level of risk. Various risk factors are present that make some people vulnerable to the condition.
Who Is At Risk For Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition. Like other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and SLE, the exact cause of the condition is not known. The condition occurs when the immune system of the body attacks the acetylcholine receptors and damages them thereby reducing their numbers. Acetylcholine is the main neurotransmitter in the muscular system and as the number of receptors reduced, the nerve conduction across the muscle fibers gets altered. This leads to reduced intensity of contraction and relaxation of the muscles and the muscles becomes weak. Various risk factors increase the chance of occurrence of myasthenia gravis. These risk factors may be present simultaneously or have the capability of developing the condition on their own. Following are the risk factors associated with myasthenia gravis-
Family History- Although the genetic association of the disease is not validated through studies, various instances prove that people with myasthenia gravis in their families are at higher risk of developing the condition.
Gender And Age- Myasthenia gravis equally affects the male and female and also found in people of all ages, but women under the age of 40 years and men over the age of 60 years are most commonly affected. (1)
Fetus- Transient myasthenia gravis is found in the infant with the mother is suffering from myasthenia gravis. In most of the infants the symptoms disappear after 3 months of birth while in some children, it may progress to a matured myasthenia gravis. Juveniles are at low risk of developing myasthenia gravis. (2)
Thymus Problems- Thymus is the gland present in the throat and is associated with the immune system. Thus, any disorder in this gland may lead to an overactive immune system. The patient with thymoma, tumor in the thymus gland, increases the risk of myasthenia gravis.
Autoimmune Disease- Myasthenia gravis is a condition in which the immune system of the body attacks the cells and receptors of the body leading to their damage. The people who already have autoimmune conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or Rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk of developing myasthenia gravis. (3)
Worsening Of Myasthenia Gravis Symptoms
Although the exact cause of myasthenia gravis is not known, various factors worsen the symptoms of this condition. Some factors may transform the disease from the remission to the active state. Thus, the patients are advised to avoid the following factors-
Infection- Infection, bacterial and viral worsens the symptoms of myasthenia gravis. The respiratory infection further congests the airway system leading to worsening of symptoms.
Pregnancy- Myasthenia gravis symptoms are aggravated in pregnancy due to increased fatigue and weakness. The risk of developing myasthenia gravis crisis increases in pregnancy.
Environment- Environmental factors also play a significant role in worsening the symptoms of myasthenia gravis. Exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and toxins worsens the symptoms of myasthenia gravis. The symptoms may also be worsened due to occupational exposure to chemicals. Emotional stress such as anxiety, frustration, and depression increase the risk of worsening of symptoms.
Fatigue- Fatigue due to any reason worsens the symptoms. The patient suffers from weak muscles and further fatigue may cause widespread pain in the body.
Exercise- Rigorous exercise is directly related to fatigue. Muscles are primarily involved in exercise and this further cause pain in the muscles. Thus, exercise should be done only as directed by the physiotherapist experienced in managing exercise for myasthenia gravis patients.
Various risk factors increase the occurrence of myasthenia gravis. These factors include family history, pregnancy, gender, thymus problems, and other autoimmune diseases. Thymus tumor, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, increases the risk of myasthenia gravis.
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