Myasthenia gravis is a disorder characterized by weakness of the muscles that are under your voluntary control. Myasthenia Gravis is characterized by a communication breakdown between your nerves and muscles. It can be caused by an autoimmune condition that has damaged the receptors on your muscles. Patients with myasthenia gravis produce antibodies that adhere to the muscle receptors and prevent nerve impulses from getting to the muscle. This causes the muscle to become weakened.
Myasthenia most often affects the muscles of the face, eyes, arms, and legs, as well as the muscles used for chewing, swallowing, and talking. The muscles that control breathing and swallowing can sometimes be involved as well. Some of the signs of myasthenia gravis include:
- Drooping eyelids
- Double vision
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Difficulty breathing, talking, chewing, or swallowing.
The symptoms of myasthenia can worsened by fatigue, stress, illness, and certain medications. Check with your doctor before taking any new prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Your ophthalmologist can test for myasthenia using a number of methods, including:
- Blood tests to look for abnormal antibodies
- Neurological examination
- Nerve conduction testing and single-fiber electromyography, which test the electrical activity in your muscles
- Edrophonium injection testing, to look for immediate, temporary improvement in your muscle strength.
There is no known cure for myasthenia, but if you seek treatment early when you first experience symptoms, you can manage the condition successfully. Your ophthalmologist has a number of treatment options to manage your condition, including medication and surgery. You can also receive physical therapy and learn specific coping skills to help improve your daily life. Early detection and treatment of myasthenia is crucial to managing the condition and preventing serious problems with breathing or swallowing (which require emergency care).