What is Myasthenia Gravis
A chronic, autoimmune disorder, Myasthenia gravis gives rise to a condition that causes muscle weakness and muscle fatigue which generally results in weakness of the body. It usually varies from individual depending on how much the amount of weakness is caused by the patient. The symptoms are mostly observed in areas across eyes and eyelids, and facial expressions such as swallow and chew; however it will affect the entire body. It can be life-threatening however modern science is responsible to cure around 90% affected but the majority of patients suffer for a long time. But, the disease is quite rare and its ratio indicates 15 in every 100,000 patients suffer myasthenia gravis, or what usually refers to as MG.
Causes of Myasthenia Gravis
Generally, the role of the immune system in the human body is to produce antibodies (proteins that manage the antigens entering the body) that will protect the body from bacteria and viruses. However, sometimes it so happens that the antibodies are produced against the ‘self’ proteins which may cause autoimmune disease in the system.
The antibodies are produced against acetylcholine which is located at the junction connecting muscles and nerves. This results in the weakening of muscles and the body get easily tired. The antibodies will stick to the acetylcholine which reduces their ability to receive chemical signals and later this results in muscle weakening.
There’s no specific cause known but somehow it’s linked with the thymus gland, a gland in the chest area. It is observed that patients suffering from MG observe abnormal growth of the thymus gland.
Symptoms of myasthenia gravis
The first muscle that usually is affected during MG is that of eyes and eyelids. Thus, weakness or tiredness may be observed. While it is generally spread across several muscles of the body, some people only are affected in these areas.
The common symptoms involve
– Weakness in the neck, arms, and legs
– Difficulty making facial expressions or chewing
– Slurred speech
– reduced stamina
– breathing problems
Symptoms may get a bit worse when tired and can even feel better after a good amount of rest. You need to track the symptoms with the help of symptom tracker.
Diagnosis of the disease
Firstly, the patient’s medical history is checked followed by a blood test which will confirm whether the antibodies are responsible for such conditions.
Electromyography (EMG) is a test conducted that will check the muscle activity. It checks the electrical response of the muscle. An electrical stimulus is applied to a nerve and the response that is obtained from a muscle is recorded. The test to be conducted is quite sensitive.
Additionally, another important test that doctors conduct is the Chest scan which will detect the enlargement of Thymus as it is in most cases that the thymus is abnormal in size. The thymus gland is a part of the immune system and hence the problems that will associate with it may be related to the myasthenia gravis.
Treatment for the disease
- Pyridostigmine: – The first treatment is usually referred to as a tablet called pyridostigmine, it prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine which will help the electric signals to travel between nerves and muscles. This drug usually starts showing a visible difference in about 30 minutes but the effect may wear off after 3-4 hours. This means, patients have to take this drug without fail at regular intervals, as prescribed by the practitioner. This may be the only treatment to be taken for some patients, however, the majority have to undergo other treatments as well.
- Thymectomy: – As the thymus abnormality is a major symptom observed in MG patients, it is advised to have surgery done and remove the part. However, this may not be the 100% cure to everyone. However, it may show a considerable amount of improvement for a lot, certain people need to undergo other treatments and sadly, some people have no scope of treatment here.
- Steroids: – this treatment is taken by those who do not wish to undergo thymectomy or do not respond to it. Usually started with a low dose of steroids, it is to be increased gradually. However, side effects are observed and sometimes the symptoms may get risen and leading the patient to the hospital. It is to be kept in mind that under no condition should a person stop taking steroids on his/her own as this can be a serious threat to the health of the patient.
Precautions and safety measures for myasthenia gravis
While there is no specific cause for Myasthenia gravis, there can be a specific do’s and don’ts list that can be referred to as a manual to avoid MG. however, there is some precautionary list to be taken care of by the patients who are suffering. Avoid engaging in activities that can cause the weakness to increase suddenly, as their stamina is going to be comparatively low in such situations. One may catch an allergy or infection easily and hence it should be taken care of or take a vaccine as suggested by the doctor.
The medications that are prescribed by doctors can be considered key to the lowest possible symptoms. Additionally, maintain a regular rapport with your doctor and immediately report for any abnormalities you notice.
Often we need to monitor our health and keep a record of the activities we undergo or common symptoms we face. Such a self-care system which is more commonly referred to as a treatment tracker for the patient which can be a handy tool for him to keep a record of everything and to keep the patient updated about his health on his own. After simply registering for the app and then entering the past details as mentioned by the doctor. This can be useful for any type of disease- be it acute or chronic. From setting reminders to generating reports to plot your improvement, they have it all for the patient who will himself/herself manage to notice everything that is happening and avoiding it if necessary.