Myasthenia gravis is a chronic, complex, autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own neuromuscular connections. This causes problems with communication between nerves and muscle, resulting in weakness. Myasthenia gravis affects the voluntary muscles of the body, especially the eyes, mouth, throat, and limbs.
In women, myasthenia gravis generally starts by age 20 to 30. In men, it usually starts after the age of 50. However, this condition can occur at any age. Males are more often affected than females.
These are the most common symptoms of myasthenia gravis:
- Visual problems, including drooping eyelids (ptosis) and double vision (diplopia)
- Muscle weakness and fatigue may vary rapidly in intensity over days or even hours and worsen as muscles are used (early fatigue)
- Facial muscle involvement causing a mask-like appearance; a smile may appear more like a snarl
- Trouble swallowing or pronouncing words
- Weakness of the neck or limbs
The symptoms of myasthenia gravis may look like other conditions. Always see your doctor for a diagnosis.
Flare-ups and remissions (easing of symptoms) may occur now and then during the course of myasthenia gravis. Remissions, however, are only rarely permanent or complete.
There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but the symptoms can generally be controlled. Myasthenia gravis is a lifelong medical condition. Early detection is key to managing this condition.
The goal of treatment is to increase general muscle function and prevent swallowing and breathing problems. Most people with myasthenia gravis can improve their muscle strength and lead normal or near normal lives. In more severe cases, help may be needed with breathing and eating.