Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease affecting the voluntary or skeletal muscles of the body. The body begins producing antibodies against the acetylcholine neuromessenger receptors on muscle cells. This is dysfunctional and a characteristic of autoimmune diseases. Once something in the body has an antibody attached to it, it has been marked for death by the immune system. The body destroys the acetylcholine receptors on the muscle cells. Without these receptors, signals telling the muscles to move are ignored. Muscle movements of muscles lacking many of the receptors respond in a weakened manner. People with myasthenia gravis seem very lethargic, or they tire very easily from certain movement tasks. There are times when the disease is more acute than others. There are also periods when symptoms experienced are milder and the disease seems to be in remission. Typically, myasthenia gravis is a progressively worsening disease over a few years time.

Risk factors that make development of myasthenia gravis more likely include:

  • Females in the 20 to 40 year age range
  • Males in the 50 to 70 year age range
  • Thyroid tumor present (approximately 15% of people with myasthenia gravis have a thyroid tumor)
  • Babies born to mothers with myasthenia gravis often display symptoms for a couple of weeks after they are born. The condition goes away as the infant’s immune system matures and clears out the mother’s antibodies that are attached to muscle receptors.

Signs and symptoms of myasthenia gravis are:

  • First signs of this autoimmune disease are usually eye or eyelid muscle dysfunctions. The eyelid may droop, or the eye may not respond and turn.
  • Fatigue with very little activity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Myasthenic crisis is a characterized by difficulty breathing. This can become an emergency situation as the person is unable to breath on their own.

Complications of myasthenia gravis are the myasthenic crisis leading to respiratory failure. Thyroid tumor is another complication of myasthenia gravis. In some people, the thyroid gland is removed even if a tumor is not present. This sometimes results in an alleviation of symptoms, but it will necessitate that the person take hormones for the rest of their life to replace those that are produced by the thyroid. Some people are given prednisone or other similar steroid medications to suppress the overactive immune system. This keeps the the immune system from damaging so many muscle acetylcholine receptors, but also leaves the person vulnerable to infections by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Steroids used long term create many more problems than they solve.

If you or a loved one suffered death or a worsening of condition from misdiagnosed or a failure to diagnose myasthenia gravis, you may be eligible for damages. Call the Sweeney Law Firm and let our experts review the facts to see if you have a medical malpractice case. If we take your case, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that we don’t get paid unless a settlement or recovery of funds is made on your behalf.