Myasthenia Gravis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

We all have tired and sore muscles from time to time, nothing to worry about, am I right? Well, this isn’t always the case. As, muscle weakness can be a serious and life-threatening symptom of a disease, called myasthenia gravis (MG). It affects the muscles responsible for movement and breathing and is estimated to affect around 14 to 20 people out of every 100,000 in the United States. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for myasthenia gravis. Especially for those who may be at risk or have already been diagnosed with this condition.

myasthenia gravis vs normal neuromuscular junction

What Is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a medical condition caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself. This autoimmune disease affects the communication between nerves and muscles, specifically at the neuromuscular junction. People with MG can lose the ability to control their muscles voluntarily, causing varying degrees of muscle weakness and fatigue. MG is a lifelong neuromuscular disease that requires proper management to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. There are several types of myasthenia gravis (MG), including:

  • Ocular MG, which affects the eye muscles
  • Generalized MG, which affects muscles throughout the body
  • Congenital MG, which is present at birth
  • Drug-induced MG, which can be caused by certain medications

Additionally, MG can also be classified based on the presence or absence of specific antibodies. Understanding the type of MG a person has is important because it can impact the severity of their symptoms and the treatments that may be most effective for them.

Causes of Myasthenia Gravis

The exact cause of myasthenia gravis (MG) is not fully understood, which means that not everyone diagnosed with MG, will have a clear reason, for why they got it. However, it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The most common cause of MG is an autoimmune response in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) on the muscle cells that receive nerve impulses. This interference leads to weakness and fatigue in the affected muscles. Other less common causes of MG may include:

  • Thymoma – a tumor in the thymus gland, which is located in the chest and plays a role in the immune system
  • Thymus hyperplasia – an enlargement of the thymus gland
  • Medications – certain drugs can cause MG-like symptoms, although this type of MG is usually reversible once the medication is stopped.

Now that we know more about what MG is and how it’s caused, it’s crucial to know when you’re at risk of getting the disease, how to recognize it, and how to treat it. Discover this information on the next page.