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A closer look at Myasthenia Gravis

More...Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America

Myasthenia gravis is an uncommon condition that weakens the voluntary muscles. It is not contagious and doesn't seem to be inherited.

Roughly 36,000 people have been diagnosed with this chronic condition in the United States, although scientists believe more people have it and are never diagnosed.

The condition usually is noticed when people complain of fatigue and have trouble seeing due to double vision or drooping eyelids. The condition may extend to other muscles, causing weakness in the arms, hands, and legs. People with the condition often have trouble chewing. At its worst, the condition can affect breathing and swallowing.

Myasthenia gravis is aggravated by over exertion, stress, infections, excessive heat or cold, and fever. The entire family is affected when a member has MG, as it is called. For one thing, the symptoms seem to come and go, making it difficult to pin down a diagnosis. Sufferers get frustrated at themselves, and the medical costs are always a consideration.

Parents of children with MG have to be patient and understanding. They need to help the child achieve a balance of work, home, and social obligations. Balanced nutrition is important. Medical care is a must. Resting the eyes or taking naps may be helpful, as can avoidance of infections, such as a cold. With appropriate medical therapy, most people with myasthenia gravis can lead satisfying lives.

Scientists have discovered how the condition works, but they don't know exactly what causes it. The process relates to the body's immune system creating antibodies in the thymus gland that block muscle receptors and keep the muscles from getting nerve signals from the brain. Without signals, the muscles don't contract.

Physicians treat the condition in several ways, including immune system suppressant drugs, surgery to remove the thymus gland (especially if it has a tumor in it), and in worst cases, filtering the undesired antibodies from the blood. The various treatments are effective enough for people to enjoy significant improvement and to lead normal lives.

Sometimes, myasthenia gravis goes into remission by itself, but even when it does, a person's physician and dentist should be reminded that the condition exists. This is important because medications for other ailments can adversely affect people with myasthenia gravis. People with myasthenia gravis usually wear a medical alert bracelet to caution emergency personnel to use drug precautions in an accident or other crisis.

For some people, there are side effects of the drug therapy, including cramping, diarrhea, weight gain, and fluid retention. People with these effects should follow common sense steps to nutrition, including the possibility of reducing the dosage, drinking plenty of liquids, avoiding caffeinated beverages, eating fruits to replace minerals, eating low fiber foods, avoiding salt, and staying away from junk foods and prepared foods that are high in salt.

The term myasthenia gravis comes from the Greek and Latin words that mean "serious muscle weakness."

The Myasthenia Gravis Foundation is a support group for families who have a member with the condition. The organization's address is 222 South Riverside Plaza, Chicago, Illinois 60606, or by phone at 1-800-541-5454 or 312-256-0522.

If you are a Texas resident and are not approved as a foster or adoptive family, please fill out our Adoption and Foster Care Interest form in the Get Started section.

If you have questions or want to inquire about a specific child or sibling group, contact the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) or call 1-800-233-3405.

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