The Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) believes that in Spain About 15,000 people suffer from myasthenia gravis. It is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of one of the muscles under voluntary control.
It is an autoimmune disease, since the immune system itself generates antibodies that block and they alter some of the nerve signals to your muscles, making them weaker,” says Medline Plus, the health information website developed by the US National Library of Medicine.
Although this disease can affect people of any age, it is more common in women under 40 and men over 60.
It is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles, which can be caused by the following reasons:
- Antibody: Receptor blockade is the main cause of myasthenia gravis. The immune system produces antibodies that block or destroy many receptors in the muscles for a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. For example, it occurs with “tyrosine kinase”, a protein that participates in the formation of the neuromuscular junction.
- thymus: Researchers believe that the thymus gland triggers or maintains the production of antibodies that block acetylcholine.
- Other causes: Mothers with myasthenia gravis have children born with this condition (neonatal myasthenia gravis) but these are very rare situations. It has a quick recovery (about two months) if treated early.
Symptoms usually improve with rest, so muscle weakness can come and go. Although over the years they tend to get worse.
It is very common that the first sign of this disease is recorded in the eyes, through:
- Dropping of one or both eyelids (ptosis)
- Double vision (diplopia), which can be horizontal or vertical and improves or disappears when one eye is closed
According to the MayoClinic, “in approximately 15% of cases of people with myasthenia gravisthe first symptoms concern the muscles of the face and throat”, which can:
- Speech impairment
- Cause difficulty in swallowing
- affect chewing
- change facial expressions
Myasthenia gravis has no cure, but treatment can help relieve signs and symptoms. The process can be done in three ways, depending on each person and the level of severity of the disease:
- Medications: They are often used cholinesterase inhibitors (improve communication between nerves and muscles)corticosteroids (limit the production of antibodies) and immunosuppressants (with the same objective as the previous one).
- Intravenous therapy: Used on a short-term basis to treat a sudden worsening of disease or before surgery or other treatments.
- Operation: If you have a tumor in the thymus, it will need to be removed (thymectomy). Even if there isn’t, removing the gland may improve symptoms.