Finding the average person who is aware that June is Myasthenia Gravis (MG) Awareness Month or who even knows what this condition is, is probably as rare as the condition itself. Only 14-20 out of every 100,000 people are affected by MG, but for some of these people this can be a life threatening disease.
What is Myasthenia Gravis?
MG is an autoimmune disorder that impacts the neuromuscular system. Antibodies attack the nerve receptors that signal the muscles to contract. This breakdown in communication results in muscle weakness. The most common muscle groups impacted by MG are the ones that control movement of the eye and eyelids. Other affected muscle groups are those that enable chewing and swallowing, shrugging, gripping, and walking up stairs. If the muscles that aid in breathing are impacted by MG this condition can become deadly.
Symptoms of MG
The exact cause of myasthenia gravis has baffled scientists, but the symptoms include:
- difficulty talking
- trouble climbing stairs or lifting objects
- paralysis of the face
- difficulty chewing and swallowing
- trouble breathing
- voice hoarseness
- drooping eyelids
- double vision
MG is treated through medication, surgery, plasma exchange, and/or lifestyle changes. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants are prescribed to suppress the immune system. Thymus gland removal has been shown to decrease muscle weakness. Plasma exchange is a procedure that is used to remove harmful antibodies from the body, improving muscle strength. It is a short term treatment however; because the body continues to produce these antibodies. Getting plenty of rest, avoiding heat and stress, and wearing an eye patch to help with double vision are lifestyle changes recommended for MG sufferers.