A droopy eyelid, blurred or double vision, fatigue, and even difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking or breathing are signs of myasthenia gravis, a treatable muscle disorder.
The March issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers an overview of myasthenia gravis, which literally means grave muscle weakness.With myasthenia gravis (mi-uhs-THE-ne-uh GRA-vis), the body’s immune system produces antibodies that interfere with communication between nerves and muscles. The muscles don’t do what’s expected. Most commonly affected are eye muscles, facial muscles, and muscles that control movement of the head, arms and legs.The disorder can occur at any age but is more common in women under age 40 and men older than 50. The symptoms are more pronounced with activity and typically improve with rest. For most people, treatment results in significant improvements. Treatment options include:Medications: Medication treatment lasting from months to years often is necessary. Options include cholinesterase inhibitors — such as pyridostigmine (Mestinon) and neostigmine (Prostigmin). These medications can improve communication between nerves and muscles, increasing muscle strength. Drugs that suppress the immune system also can help.Surgery to remove the thymus gland: For 40 percent to 50 percent of people with myasthenia gravis, symptoms disappear after a thymectomy.Plasmapheresis: This therapy may be used in life-threatening circumstances. Blood is removed from the body, filtered by a machine to remove antibodies and then returned to the body.Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): This provides short-term relief by offering types of antibodies that influence immune responses.(Source: Mayo Clinic : March 2007.)