The Different Types of Myasthenia Gravis That Can Affect Your Muscles

Woman having difficulty in breathing

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  • Know the different types of myasthenia gravis that can affect your muscles and overall health
  • In some cases, myasthenia gravis can affect your breathing muscles, namely the diaphragm. This results in a complication known as a myasthenic crisis, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately

Voluntary muscles are found throughout your body, and myasthenia gravis can affect any of them. The main symptom you should watch out for is muscle weakness, which can appear in specific muscle locations.

Generalized Myasthenia Gravis

This type occurs when multiple limbs are affected, such as your arms, legs and neck, as well as the torso. Movement is severely limited due to difficulties in balance and coordination. Your neck may drop, and other ordinary activities such as walking and climbing the stairs can be very difficult and tiring.1

When you develop this form of myasthenia gravis, you will need to make adjustments to your routine to cope with the symptoms. A walking cane for example, can help support your weight if you need to go somewhere.2

Ocular Myasthenia Gravis

Ocular myasthenia gravis is a common occurrence of the condition, appearing in around half of diagnosed cases. It mainly affects your eyelids, causing them to droop. As a result, vision problems can arise, such as double vision, which may be horizontal or vertical.3

An eye patch is usually recommended to help correct double vision, and you will need to switch sides every now and then to avoid eye strain. If you need both eyes open for an important task, you may opt to use medical tape, which won’t hurt your skin when peeled.4

Facial Myasthenia Gravis

Facial myasthenia gravis can affect one or several important facial functions, namely swallowing, chewing and speaking. You may discover that your speech has become very soft or nasal, depending on the affected muscles. Chewing requires more effort, especially if you’re eating tough cuts of meat. Facial expressions are limited as well.5

Myasthenic Crisis: A Life-Threatening Complication of Myasthenia Gravis

In some cases, myasthenia gravis can affect your breathing muscles, namely the diaphragm. This results in a complication known as a myasthenic crisis, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

There are several signs to watch out for, such as difficulty breathing, skin pulling into your ribs when inhaling, weight loss and fatigue during the daytime. One treatment that can help you breathe is an endotracheal (ET) tube, which can be attached to a ventilator to help pump air into your lungs. A similar device called a bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine can be used as well to provide relief.6

Myasthenia Gravis Can Also Manifest in Newborn Children

Myasthenia gravis can strike anyone, even newborn children. Infants can develop two forms of the disease:7

Congenital myasthenia gravis: This is an inherited form of the condition. Generalized symptoms can appear in the newborn baby immediately or shortly after birth. A genetic defect is thought to be the reason for this occurrence.

Transient neonatal myasthenia gravis: This occurs when a mother has myasthenia gravis during childbirth, transferring her muscle-weakening antibodies to her newborn child. This causes the child to temporarily display generalized symptoms, which will gradually get better as the antibodies are slowly removed.

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