Treatment for Myasthenia Gravis
(Weakening of the Muscles)
What is Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is a weakening of the muscles. It generally affects the skeletal or voluntary muscles such as those in and around the eye, face, jaw and throat; interfering with vision, swallowing, breathing and even walking.
The illness is an autoimmune disorder which is defined as any disease in which the cells of the body attack itself. In the case of myasthenia gravis, the immune system of the body creates antibodies that interfere or destroy the messages sent from nerve endings to the muscles. The result is a weakening of those muscles and loss of movement. It is considered chronic meaning long-lasting and recurring, but treatable.
The thymus gland, located in our upper chests, is an important part of our immune system. People with myasthenia gravis have a poorly functioning thymus gland.
What are the Symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is often characterized by noticeably weak or droopy eyes and eyelids and unusual facial expressions; however, there could also be persistent muscle fatigue throughout the body.
Other symptoms include blurred vision, slurred speech, pain while chewing or swallowing, weakened limbs and even labored breathing. Many of these symptoms are often hard to distinguish from normal tiredness or weariness and the severity of weakness varies greatly between people. If you often feel excessively tired and you frequently notice your muscles not responding as you intend, it is time to contact your doctor to be tested for myasthenia gravis.
How Does NYM Test for Myasthenia Gravis?
Your doctor will begin your diagnosis by conducting several different types of specialized blood, muscle and breathing tests as well as neurological exams. A Computed Tomography (or CT) screening is used to determine the health of your thymus gland.
You can aid the process by coming to the office with a detailed journal of when and how often your symptoms occur being specific in the location of your muscle weakness.
What is the Treatment for Myasthenia Gravis?
Once your diagnosis is complete your doctor will plot a course of treatment tailored to your precise needs, symptoms and medical history. Your doctors goal is to control your symptoms so you may return to a full and satisfying lifestyle.
Though a cure for myasthenia gravis is still unknown, medications and other procedures are used to provide relief from muscle fatigue.
If medications are not successful at controlling the disorder, your doctor may recommend a procedure called thymectomy (or surgical removal of the thymus gland). This surgery has proven successful in reducing the symptoms of myasthenia gravis.
At NYM, the thymectomy is performed in a minimally invasive way called "thoracoscopic thymectomy" which involves making only several small or keyhole sized incisions in the chest. Then tiny video cameras and instruments are used to view and take out the thymus gland. Patients generally have a quicker recovery time with this procedure rather than traditional surgery and experience less pain and complications after surgery.
For more information, call 718.780.7700.