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What is Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness and deterioration. It generally appears before the age of 40 for women and after the age of 60 for men. There is no cure, but there are treatments that help with symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis?
For most individuals with this disease, symptoms will get worse as the affected muscles are used. The most common symptoms include:
- Drooping of the eyelids (ptosis)
- Double vision (diplopia)
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Change of facial expressions
- Weakness in the neck, arms or legs
- Shortness of breath
What Causes Myasthenia Gravis?
Most frequently, myasthenia gravis is caused by a problem with autoimmunity. The body creates antibodies that destroy muscle receptors or block certain proteins that are necessary for muscle function. There is also a very rare type of myasthenia gravis that is inherited.
UR Medicine's Treatments for Myasthenia Gravis
A common way to diagnose this disease is to test how your body responds to certain medications. Other tests may include:
- Blood tests—look for antibodies
- Nerve conduction studies—stimulate nerves
- Single-fiber EMG—records the transmission of signals from nerve to muscle
- Genetic tests—see if it runs in families
With treatment, most can expect to lead normal or nearly normal lives. Some cases may go into remission temporarily, and muscle weakness may disappear so medications can be discontinued. In a few cases, the severe weakness of myasthenia gravis may cause respiratory failure, which requires immediate emergency medical care.
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, general health, and severity of the disease. IT may include:
- Medicine—Anticholinesterase medicines, steroids, or medicines that suppress the immune system’s response
- Thymectomy—a surgical removal of the thymus gland
- Plasmapheresis—a procedure that removes abnormal antibodies and replaces the blood with normal antibodies
- Immunoglobulin—a blood product that is given intravenously (by IV) to decrease the immune system’s attack on the nervous system
- Infusions of monoclonal antibody—includes eculizumab and others which are effective for people with the more common form of MG
What Sets Us Apart?
Our team of experts specialize in what’s needed to care for all forms of childhood and adult neuromuscular disease. We coordinate care tailored to the needs of patients and families.
As part of an academic medical center, our clinicians are also active in research, serving as Principal Investigators for national and international multi-center trials. UR Medicine has been home to:
- NIH-funded Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Centers
- PPMD Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Center
- SMA Cures Center of Excellence
- An NIH-funded Inherited Neuropathies Consortium Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network site
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Clinton Crossings, Building C
919 Westfall Road, Suite 210
Rochester, NY 14618