Myasthenia gravis (MG) remission refers to a period of time when symptoms significantly ease or even disappear, allowing a person with MG to live with minimal medications or medical interventions.
MG is an autoimmune disease caused by antibodies mistakenly attacking the proteins involved in nerve-muscle communication. MG symptoms include weakness and fatigue that can affect muscles involved in the body’s voluntary movements.
For many people, the first symptoms affect the muscles controlling the eye and eyelid movements, causing double vision and droopy eyelids. MG also can cause mobility and balance problems, impaired speech, difficulty swallowing, changes in facial expressions, and trouble breathing.
While it isn’t clear what causes the self-reactive antibodies to develop, their production has been linked to irregularities in the thymus gland, which plays a part in the immune system.
Can MG go away?
Since MG is a chronic disorder, it can go into remission but typically does not completely go away.
The course of MG can vary greatly from person to person. Some people may have sporadic and mild MG symptoms, while others may experience more persistent and severe MG symptoms.
While currently there is no cure for MG, there are a number of MG treatments, such as medications and other therapies, that can help manage the disease and possibly help people achieve and maintain remission.
approved medications, such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, immunosuppressive drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs
plasmapheresis, a blood-filtering treatment believed to reduce levels of the self-reactive antibodies that cause MG
intravenous immunoglobulin infusions to counteract the harmful self-reactive antibodies that drive MG
avoiding triggers such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, infections, illness, and pain
Surgical removal of the thymus gland — a procedure referred to as thymectomy — may reduce muscle weakness caused by MG and lead to long-term remission of symptoms.
The thymus gland is part of the immune system; the production of self-reactive antibodies that cause MG have been linked to abnormalities in this gland. Removing the thymus gland is thought to decrease production of these harmful antibodies.
For some people, having a thymectomy makes their MG symptoms go away, while for others any changes in symptoms are minimal. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 70% of people with MG are able to significantly reduce their medications while 30%-40% go fully into remission within a year of having the procedure.
Other MG treatments and disease management
In addition to medical treatments such as a thymectomy, there are other ways to manage MG, including making lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes that can help manage MG include:
energy conservation, planning activities for when energy levels are higher
exercise and physical therapy to improve muscle strength and balance, and alleviate fatigue
staying cool as heat can make MG symptoms worse
eating a well-balanced and healthy diet can boost energy and maintain a healthy weight
meal preparation, including cutting food into small pieces, choosing softer foods, and alternating between food and drink while eating to help with swallowing problems
improving speech and communication through exercises that can strengthen muscles involved in speech, or use alternative means of communication such as email or writing
taking care of mental health by developing resilience and effective coping strategies.
What does MG remission look like?
While remission is not the same as a cure, it means that the disease is more manageable and less often affecting the daily life of a person with MG.
Remission is characterized by a noticeable improvement in muscle strength and a reduction in the medications needed to keep symptoms under control.
While the ideal goal is a lasting remission that includes the complete elimination of all weakness and being able to stop taking medications for MG, improvement can vary from person to person. Some people still may have residual muscle weakness, while others may not.
Ongoing medical monitoring is important, as MG symptoms can fluctuate and reappear after a remission period.
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