Myasthenia gravis is an immune-mediated disorder characterized by muscle weakness. It can involve any group of muscles in the body and occurs due to disruption of the communication between nerves and muscle fibers. It is also known as Goldflam disease.
How Myasthenia Gravis Is Caused?
The voluntary muscles in our body help us perform different activities. For instance, it is the contraction of voluntary muscles that help in the movement of eyes in whatever direction we want to move. Similarly, we walk, run, write, talk and perform many different activities thanks to the contraction of voluntary muscles.
The contraction of these voluntary muscles is dependent upon adequate communication between the muscles and nerves at the neuromuscular junction.
This electrical signal carried by the nerve fiber upon reaching the junction between the nerve and muscle fiber causes a release of a chemical called acetylcholine. This acts on the specialized receptors located on the muscle end of the junction and it is what signals muscle contractions enabling us to perform all sort of activities.
In the case of myasthenia gravis, our own immune system mistakenly recognizes these acetylcholine receptors as foreign proteins and starts attacking them by producing antibodies directed against them. This ultimately causes the destruction of the acetylcholine receptors, disrupting the whole process of communication at the junction, thus interfering with the muscle contraction.
Myasthenia Gravis Symptoms
Myasthenia gravis usually causes muscles weakness in descending order, that is the muscles weakness starts initially from the eyes and gradually proceed toward the lower limbs.
- Initially, due to the involvement of the eye muscles, it may cause drooping or falling of the eyelids. It may also interfere with the whole process of vision.
- Once the muscles of the face and throat become involved, it can cause problems such as difficulty in speech, chewing, eating and drinking as well as problems related to the facial expressions.
- Similarly, myasthenia gravis can make it difficult for you to hold your neck, walk or do stuff with your hands and arms once the muscles in these areas are affected.
Myasthenia Gravis Complications
Myasthenia gravis can involve any muscles in the body. The real trouble comes when the muscles responsible for respiration such as diaphragm and intercostals muscles are involved. This makes the person unable to breathe.
This is an emergency situation that requires measures such as mechanical ventilator support along with other measures to reduce the level of antibodies in that patient in order to save his/her life.
Common Associations of Myasthenia Gravis
Myasthenia gravis is found to be associated with the following conditions.
It is a benign tumor arising from thymus, a gland that is located beneath the sternum or chest bone and is regarded as a part of the immune system.
Disorders of Thyroid Gland
In general patients with one immune-mediated condition are at increased risk of developing other immune-mediated conditions as well. These patients are thus at increased risk of developing conditions such as SLE, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as ankylosing spondylitis.
Do you have problems with your immune system? Come to Century Medical and Dental Center (Downtown Brooklyn, Gravesend, Flatbush, Fort Greene and Midtown Manhattan) and talk to one of our immunology specialists today.