What is myasthenia gravis?


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Being told that you have this condition may sound scary. The term means "grave muscle weakness." However, the good news is that the disease is most often not grave. Today's treatments can help control it in most people.

The disease causes muscle weakness that can be mild, moderate or strong. It occurs in muscles that you control voluntarily. Often, your muscle weakness gets worse when you are active and improves when you rest.

How does it affect you?

Commonly, the disease may affect muscles that control your:

• Eye and eyelid movement
• Facial expression
• Chewing
• Talking
• Swallowing

It may also affect muscles that control your breathing and neck, arm and leg movements.

How do you get it?

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system normally protects your body. In this case, it attacks your body by mistake. It causes a problem with how your nerves send messages to your muscles.

People with the disease have an abnormal thymus gland. Some scientists think this may cause the disease. However, no one has yet figured out how this gland and the disease are related.

The disease occurs at any age and in all ethnic groups. It is most common in women under age 40 and men over age 60. It is not inherited and can't be spread from person to person.

What can you do about it?

Current treatments can help reduce and improve muscle weakness caused by the disease. They include:

• Medication
• Surgery to remove the thymus gland
• Plasmapheresis, a procedure that removes abnormal antibodies from the blood
• High-dose intravenous immune globulin, which provides normal antibodies from donated blood

A neurologist (a doctor who works with nerve disorders) can help find which treatment works best for you.

IMPORTANT: Rarely, a myasthenia crisis may occur. It happens when muscles become so weak that it's hard to breathe or swallow. It can be brought on by an infection, fever or bad reaction to a medication. Call 9-1-1 and get emergency care immediately if this happens.

If you have myasthenia gravis, the most important thing you can do is get the right treatment. If you do, you increase your chances of leading a normal life.

What are Muscle disorders?
Movement disorders are a group of diseases and syndromes affecting the ability to produce and control movement. Though it seems simple and effortless, normal movement in fact requires an astonishingly complex system of control.

Disruption of any portion of this system can cause a person to produce movements that are too weak, too forceful, too uncoordinated, or too poorly controlled for the task at hand. Unwanted movements may occur at rest.

Intentional movement may become impossible. Such conditions are called movement disorders.
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