MG is an autoimmune disorder that causes a breakdown in normal communication between nerves and muscles. It affects voluntary muscles, or those that are under your control, causing muscle weakness that worsens with activity and improves with rest.
MG is the result of an overreaction of your immune system, which causes it to produce antibodies that block or destroy many of the nerve receptor sites on your muscles. When your muscles are unable to receive those nerve signals, they become weak and prone to easy fatigue.
Although MG can impact any skeletal muscle in your body, it most often affects the muscles that control the arms and legs, eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, swallowing, and breathing. Because the disease can come on suddenly, its symptoms often aren’t immediately recognized as MG.
For many patients, weak eye muscles, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech are among the first noticeable symptoms. While symptom type and intensity varies from person to person, symptoms generally tend to progress over time, typically reaching their worst stage a few years after the onset of the disease. Common symptoms include:
Some patients also experience shortness of breath and weakness in their arms, fingers, legs, and neck.
Men and women of all ages and ethnicities can develop MG, but it’s most common in young adult women and older men. Women who tend to get the disease are usually in their 20s or 30s, while most men who develop MG are in their 70s or 80s.
Although MG isn’t believed to be inherited or contagious, there have been cases of more than one member of the same family developing the neuromuscular disorder. Infants and children rarely develop MG.
If you’ve been diagnosed with MG, there’s some good news: The disease is mostly controllable. The physicians at The Neurology Group use a variety of treatment methods to manage MG symptoms, including:
Cholinesterase inhibitors: These medications improve muscle strength and contraction by promoting communication between nerves and muscles.
Corticosteroids: These drugs limit antibody production by inhibiting the immune system.
Plasmapheresis: This blood filtering process, which is similar to dialysis, filters the specific antibodies that cause MG out of your blood.
Intravenous immunoglobulin: This IV therapy is used to infuse your blood with normal antibodies, which helps alter immune system response.