JUNE IS MYASTHENIA GRAVIS AWARENESS MONTH
What is Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is a chronic neuromuscular disease which derives its name from the Latin and Greek words meaning “grave muscle weakness”. The disease is characterised by abnormal weakness of voluntary muscles (those controlled by will). This weakness increases with activity and decreases with periods of rest.
The muscular weakness caused by MG varies with activity, and can affect any of the muscles you can control. MG is also consider a neuromuscular condition which affects the transmission of messages from nerves to muscles.
What causes Myasthenia Gravis?
No one knows.
In MG, the muscle weakness occurs because there is reduction in the number of receptor sites at the neuromuscular junction. This destruction of receptor sites is due to an antibody.
Myasthenia Gravis involves damage and dysfunction of the neuromuscular junction.
Can it be healed?
While there is no known cure for Myasthenia Gravis, it can be treated in a variety of ways. These treatments include medication, plasmapheresis and thymectomy.
Some people ask: Is it a lifelong condition?
The outlook for Myasthenia Gravis patients varies. The treatment does not completely halt the disease but does improve the symptoms. In some cases, the disease may go into remission in which case the symptoms disappear and no treatment is necessary.
Who does it affect?
Myasthenia Gravis may affect an individual of any age or race, including a newborn child. However, the disease is seen more frequently in the young females and in the older males. The role of heredity is uncertain.
What is the treatment for Myasthenia Gravis?
The treatment methods differ with each patient because of the different symptoms. The doctor will determine which type of treatment is best for the patient. It is recommended that sufferers or curious persons consult with a neurologist to reach a diagnosis.
The most frequently used treatment is medication. For example, Mestinon, Prednisolone (Steroids) and other immuno-suppressive agents.
What are the symptoms?
• Fluctuating weakness
• Drooping eyelids
• Double vision
• Slurred speech
• Weakness of arms and legs
• Difficulty chewing and swallowing
• Difficulty coughing
• Shortness of breath
Why is MG so hard to diagnose?
Myasthenia Gravis is very rare and the findings fluctuate; it also mimics other diseases.
How widespread is it in Barbados?
There are approximately 200 persons diagnosed with the illness in Barbados; which represents 0.07% of the population.
Why was the association formed?
The Myasthenia Gravis Association was formed to bring together sufferers who share common experiences unique to their illness/condition. Along with sharing comes a greater understanding, a sense of belonging and establishing new or additional friendships. It’s like a new haven for dispelling myths, boredom, discouragement and rejection. Additionally, members are given moral support and words of hope.
What does the association do?
• Disseminate information on MG to members and the general public, thereby creating awareness of the illness. This includes setting up information booths across the island
• Engage guest speakers (medical and motivational)
• Give video presentations
• Games evening
• General discussions
• Sharing experiences
• Fundraising events
• Quizzes and scenarios
If you have questions about Myasthenia Gravis, where can you go for more information?
1. Your neurologist 2. Our website: mgabarbados.org 3. Kindly call the Barbados Council for the Disabled at 629-0574 for referrals.
Rosalind Mascoll is the President of the Myasthenia Gravis Association