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Symptoms of myasthenia gravis you should not ignore

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  • In myasthenia gravis, muscle weakness is the main symptom you should watch out for. It can suddenly strike anywhere in your body
  • If you develop any sort of muscle weakness, especially in the face, eyes or limbs, visit a doctor immediately

In myasthenia gravis, muscle weakness is the main symptom you should watch out for. It can suddenly strike anywhere in your body, but it appears more often in these two areas:1

Facial area — Around 50% of people with myasthenia gravis first develop muscle weakness in one or both eyelids. They will droop, resulting in double vision.

The muscles in your jaw area may be affected as well. Your speech may be altered, and may become very soft or nasal. You may have difficulty chewing and swallowing food, resulting in unfinished meals. It can be hard to project facial expressions as well, which can lead you to think you have Bell’s palsy.2

Limbs — In other cases, myasthenia gravis can affect your arms, legs or neck. Sometimes, all of them can be affected at the same time. As a result, balance and movement can be severely affected. Your head may drop, and you may have difficulty going from one place to another.

Activities such as climbing the stairs, brushing your teeth and taking a bath may become harder to execute, and you may experience fatigue faster than usual.

Do not overlook the symptoms of a myasthenic crisis

A myasthenic crisis is a complication that arises from myasthenia gravis. It is life-threatening because in this situation, your breathing muscles weaken, leading to problems inhaling oxygen. It’s estimated that 15% to 20% of people with myasthenia gravis develop this condition eight to 12 months upon the onset of their condition. In some cases, however, 20% of people with myasthenia gravis may exhibit a myasthenic crisis as their first symptom.3

The main symptom of myasthenic crisis is respiratory weakness and a forced vital capacity equal to or less than 1.0 liters.4 Forced vital capacity is a measurement of how strong you can exhale to test lung function.5 If you’re diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and your respiratory tests show weak lungs, be aware of breathing problems so you can get help right away. In addition, the following complications can appear alongside a myasthenic crisis:6

  • Deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a deep vein, which is usually in the leg)
  • Sepsis (an overreaction of your immune system in response to a bacterial infection)
  • Fever
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Cardiac complications such as arrhythmia, cardiac arrest and congestive heart failure

Your thymus gland may exhibit symptoms with myasthenia gravis

It’s estimated that around 15% of people with myasthenia gravis have thymoma,7 which is a tumor in the thymus gland. Symptoms of this complication include:8

  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats

In addition, there’s a 50% chance that a thymoma can be asymptomatic. If left untreated, the tumor can spread to nearby organs like the lungs or heart. To check your thymus gland’s condition, ask your doctor to undergo imaging tests when diagnosing for myasthenia gravis.9

What to do if you think you have myasthenia gravis

If you suddenly develop any sort of muscle weakness, especially in the face, eyelids or limbs, visit a doctor immediately. Getting immediate treatment is crucial, especially if your breathing muscles are affected. Ask assistance from a family member to help you go to the doctor.

Learn More About Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia Gravis: Introduction

What Is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia Gravis Symptoms

Myasthenia Gravis Causes

Myasthenia Gravis Types

Myasthenia Gravis Diagnosis

Myasthenia Gravis Treatment

Myasthenia Gravis Prevention

Myasthenia Gravis Diet

Myasthenia Gravis FAQ

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