Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease that can affect any of the skeletal muscles. Although there is no cure, those affected by this uncommon condition are able to manage their symptoms with consistent treatment.
When MG affects a smaller number of muscles, it can be harder to diagnose the problem and misdiagnoses are also common. Drooping of the eyes or one side of the face can easily be symptoms of a stroke or Bell's palsy. Other autoimmune conditions that affect the muscles can also cause symptoms similar to MG. The road to diagnosis can be long and difficult. Ruling out the most critical diagnosis first, such as a stroke, will likely be the first step. Sometimes, trial-and-error can also help doctors pinpoint a diagnosis. If symptoms respond favorably to steroid therapy, then it likely indicates the problem is an autoimmune disease. Tests to inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down acetylcholine are also used to help determine if the problem is MG. If doctors suspect or confirm MG, they may also want to perform a CT or MRI to check your thymus gland for a tumor, which occurs in some people with MG.
Your doctors may want to try different immunosuppresive medications, which may slow or stop disease progression. Much like other autoimmune diseases, it may take time and trying different combinations of immunosuppresive medications to find ones that either controls symptoms, or controls them as much as possible. People with MG may also take medications to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine. Other treatments might be used to reduce exacerbation of the disease, such as steroid therapy or plasmapheresis, since both can reduce flare-ups. For MG patients with a thymus tumor, removal of the thymus can also help improve symptoms.
Depending on the symptoms you experience with MG, you may need several lifestyle modifications to manage your symptoms. People who experience problems with swallowing will need to modify their diet to minimize the chance of indigestion, choking, or aspiration of foods and liquids. Eating solid foods that are easy to chew will allow the food to pass through the esophagus more smoothly. Some people may need to rely extensively on soft foods, especially if they also have problems chewing their food thoroughly due to jaw problems. If significant problems with eating and drinking occur, even liquids cannot be ingested safely. A thickening agent can be added to liquids so they cannot be aspirated as easily. Since physical activity easily causes fatigue in people with MG, scheduling your activities and rest periods can help you maintain functioning throughout the day.
Much like other autoimmune diseases, MG can be unpredictable. The faster a diagnosis is made, the easier it will be to find ways to control the disease. For more information, contact a company like Kenai Peninsula Imaging Center, LLC today.