Myasthenia Gravis- What is it?
The disease Myasthenia gravis results in muscles that tire and become weak easily. It may interfere with everyday activities as common as chewing food. If a patient has this disease his jaw muscles may tire soon and affect his food intake. After some rest, they may let the patient continue as usual. In fact, this tendency of tiring with little use then resumption of the normal state with a little bit of rest is the characteristic hallmark of this particular disease. During certain periods the symptoms are acuter, termed medically as an exacerbation, together with periods of remission when the symptoms disappear altogether. The most commonly affected muscles by this particular disease happen to be the ones that control the movement of the eyelids and eyes. Most patients witness weaknesses in other groups of muscles with the passage of a few years. When myasthenia gravis affects several groups of muscles throughout the body the condition is termed generalized myasthenia gravis. It may affect muscles that will make everyday tasks like swallowing, chewing, shrugging, smiling, lifting arms, standing up, gripping or walking up the stairs somewhat of a challenge. If the condition affects the breathing muscles it results in myasthenic crisis which is a condition that may pose a threat to one’s life. Though there is no exception regarding age or sex of people being affected by the disease it typically occurs in women who are aged between 20 to 40 and men between the ages 50 and 70. Mothers with myasthenia gravis may have babies affected with temporary weaknesses of the muscles which too may threaten the life of the newborn.
What are the causes of Myasthenia Gravis?
In the case of normal operations of nerves and muscles, nerves send directions to muscles to work by sending chemical messages through an area which is known as a receptor in biological terminology. The message is delivered through the chemical acetylcholine. The muscle knows it’s time to contract when acetylcholine binds itself to a nerve receptor. If a person is suffering from myasthenia gravis basically they have lesser amounts of acetylcholine receptors than what is needed by the body to function normally.
This disease is an autoimmune disorder. In cases of such diseases, the antibodies of the body mistakenly attack ones’ own body parts eventually destroying them. Antibodies are special proteins with the purpose of protecting the body from threats like viruses, bacteria or fungi. If one is affected by myasthenia gravis his or her antibodies attack, block or destroy the acetylcholine receptors that are essential for contraction of muscles. The disease is suspected to be connected with the thymus.