Approximately10 out of every 100,000 people are known to have the neuromuscular disease known as myasthenia gravis, or MG. This disease is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakening that exacerbates with activity. This disease is lessened with frequent periods of rest. Occurring in mostly women under the age of 40 and men over the age of 60 this disease can, however, strike anyone including children.
Due to an abnormal thymus gland, this disease makes antibodies that work against themselves and block the substance, acetylcholine, in binding to the muscle. Myasthenia gravis will have the most affects the muscle that control chewing, talking, eye movements, swallowing, the extremities, and facial movements.
Blood tests for myasthenia gravis include antibody laboratory tests. These blood tests will recognize abnormal antibodies in higher than normal levels due to an overactive immune system. It will show an abnormal nerve-to-muscle pathway. The abnormal antibodies shown are the acetylcholine receptor antibodies, which indicate myasthenia gravis. The acetylcholine receptor testing is measured in nanomoles per liter. The normal range for this particular test is 0-.03 nM/liter.
Ten to twenty percent of patients with myasthenia gravis will test normal. A person who only exhibits signs and symptoms of ocular myasthenia gravis will test normal 50% of the time. In a mild case of myasthenia gravis only one person out of every five people will test negative.
An additional antibody can also be found, as sometimes a myasthenia gravis patient will test negative for the acetylcholine receptor antibody. This other antibody is the MuSK antibody. Other confirming testing is done as well, such as a standard electromyogram, known as an EMG. This is done with repetitive stimulations and will show abnormal responses in a myasthenia gravis patient. This can also show as negative in a myasthenia gravis patient.
A test known as an edrophonium test is injected into an MG patient intravenously and will block the acetylcholine allowing a patient with MG to have an increased level of strength in the muscles. The ultimate diagnostic testing source for people with myasthenia gravis is a single-fiber EMG. This test will be the determining factor in the diagnosis of myasthenia gravis.
If it is determined that a person has myasthenia gravis medications are usually the general form of treatment. These medications give symptomatic relief, but a cure for myasthenia gravis is not possible. Consulting with your physician along with regular check-ups can keep your myasthenia gravis in control. People with myasthenia gravis can lead productive lives and daily activity with proper rest, nutrition and treatment of their symptoms. Close monitoring and consultation with your physician throughout your disease is necessary in order to achieve optimal health and a good quality of life.
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