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What is myasthenia gravis?

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muscle weakness in the arm

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  • Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes weakness and fatigue in your voluntary muscles
  • There are a few types of myasthenia gravis you can develop, which are named according to which part of your body is affected the most
  • If you notice any sudden muscle weakness in your limbs, neck or face, visit a doctor immediately

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition that causes weakness and fatigue in your voluntary muscles. Its name has Latin and Greek origins, and roughly translates to “grave muscle weakness.”1

Voluntary muscles (also known as skeletal muscles) are the most common muscle type in your body, taking their name from the fact that you can voluntarily control them. Examples include muscles in your arms, legs and other limbs.2 When you experience sudden weakness in this muscle group, you may have myasthenia gravis.

The disease occurs when your immune system attacks the neurotransmitter receptor sites in your voluntary muscles. Neurotransmitters are chemicals produced by your nerves to signal muscles to move according to your brain’s instructions, and the receptor sites are the destinations the neurotransmitters go to when receiving instructions from the brain.3

Symptoms of myasthenia gravis and how it is diagnosed

There are several ways you can identify myasthenia gravis, depending on which part is affected. Areas that are commonly affected by this condition include:4

  • Eyes — One or both eyelids may become droopy. Double vision may also develop if the muscles responsible for eye movement become affected.5
  • Face — Many important functions in your face that require muscle movement can become affected. You may notice that your speech has changed, or you may have difficulty chewing or swallowing food. In some instances, you may have problems making facial expressions.
  • Limbs — Your limbs may experience difficulty performing basic functions, causing mobility and balance issues. You may also become more fatigued than usual.6

The different types of myasthenia gravis

There are a few types of myasthenia gravis you can develop, which are named according to which part of your body is affected the most:

  • Generalized myasthenia gravis — Most patients develop generalized symptoms throughout the body after the first two years of ocular symptoms.7
  • Ocular myasthenia gravis — This condition occurs when only your eye movement is affected.8
  • Facial myasthenia gravis — Generally affecting the facial area, this type can cause a facial droop.9
  • Myasthenic crisis — This occurs when the muscles responsible for breathing are affected. It can be life-threatening if you don’t get treatment right away.10
  • Congenital myasthenia gravis — A newborn baby can be affected with this disease, causing generalized symptoms.11
  • Transient neonatal myasthenia gravis — A newborn child can temporarily inherit myasthenia gravis if the mother has the disease while giving birth. Recovery without treatment occurs in majority of infants affected.12

Myasthenia gravis can be confused with other diseases

If you notice any sudden muscle weakness in your limbs, neck or face, visit a doctor immediately. Myasthenia gravis can be confused with other diseases that produce similar symptoms.

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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