What Causes Myasthenia Gravis?

At least 30,000-60,000 people in the United States have myasthenia gravis, a condition involving issues with your muscles and nerves that leads to fatigue and weakness. 

Because this chronic neuromuscular disorder often goes undiagnosed, experts believe far more people have it without realizing the cause of their symptoms.

Our team of board-certified neurologists at Michigan Neurology Associates specializes in the diagnosis and management of myasthenia gravis. Read on to learn more about this brain disorder and its causes.

Myasthenia gravis symptoms

It’s common to feel tired after exercise or exerting yourself in other ways, such as socializing and then to feel better once you’ve rested. 

But when you have myasthenia gravis, these symptoms are more pronounced and fail to improve, even if you try to move about more consistently. 

This neurological disorder can affect any muscle in your body, but facial muscle issues are especially common. Once you have it, symptoms can gradually worsen if they go untreated. 

Common signs of myasthenia gravis include:

In severe cases, myasthenia gravis can interfere with normal breathing. This condition, known as a myasthenic crisis, is a medical emergency and requires prompt care.

Myasthenia gravis causes 

When you have myasthenia gravis, your immune system releases antibodies that destroy or block receptor sites for a brain chemical called acetylcholine. This keeps your nerves and muscles from communicating with each other normally. 

These antibodies can also block a protein your muscles rely on for normal nerve-related function. All of this results in muscle weakness over time.

Your thymus gland can also play a role in myasthenia gravis. Scientists believe that this gland, located in your upper chest under your breastbone, triggers and maintains antibodies that block the protein your muscles need for normal nerve function. 

Some adults who have myasthenia gravis have an abnormally large thymus gland or tumors in the gland, which may fuel symptoms. Thankfully, these tumors aren’t usually malignant. 

In rare cases, myasthenia gravis is passed from parent to child during pregnancy. This form, called neonatal myasthenia gravis, often diminishes within two months of birth. Another rare form, congenital myasthenic syndrome, is hereditary as well.

Myasthenia gravis treatment

Once you’ve been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, we at Michigan Neurology Associates may use numerous treatments to help you manage the condition. Depending on factors such as the type and severity of your symptoms, your treatment plan may include:

Treatment for myasthenia gravis can improve your muscle control and function and potentially lead to remission of your symptoms.

To get support from our neurology specialists at Michigan Neurology Associates, call one of our three locations or send us a message through this website. Our Detroit metro offices are located in Clinton Township, St. Clair Shores, and Utica, Michigan. During the pandemic, we’re offering telehealth and phone appointments. Call 586-445-9900 to schedule a time.

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