Newly Diagnosed: Taking the First Step on Your Journey
Becoming educated is a good place to start on your journey with myasthenia gravis. Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, knowing as much as possible about the disease will help you be a more active participant in your or your loved one’s healthcare. Learn more below about myasthenia gravis, its causes, its symptoms, and how it’s diagnosed.
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a neuromuscular condition triggered by an autoimmune response; the disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues, breaking down normal communication between nerve cells and muscles. MG causes weakness and fatigue in voluntary muscles and may also affect the muscles that control breathing.
MG is typically divided into five types: congenital myasthenia gravis, generalized myasthenia gravis, ocular myasthenia gravis, transient neonatal myasthenia gravis, and juvenile myasthenia gravis, depending on time of disease onset, the cause of the neuromuscular dysfunction, and the muscle groups affected.
MG is caused mostly by antibodies attacking the acetylcholine receptor itself. However, antibodies to MuSK (Muscle-Specific Kinase) protein also can lead to impaired signal transmission at the neuromuscular junction.
The clinical hallmark of MG is muscle weakness usually involving specific susceptible muscle groups, which worsens with repetitive movement. In those with more generalized MG, affected muscles may include those of the eyes, face, jaw, throat region, arms and legs, and even muscles involved in breathing (respiratory muscles).
To diagnose the condition, a physician will review the patient’s symptoms, look at their medical history, and conduct a physical and neurological examination. Tests to confirm the diagnosis include blood, nerve, muscle, and imaging.