Friday, August 30, 2013

Drooping eyelid overlooked as symptom of Myasthenia Gravis

Jimmy Prince, diagnosed with MG
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — There are times when a drooping eyelid could mean more than just a simple sign of getting older. More physicians should be on the alert that it could indicate the first signs of myasthenia gravis.

The symptoms of myasthenia gravis (MG), a rare autoimmune disease, vary and can be more easily associated with more common disorders, so many doctors misdiagnose it and as a result patients could go without proper treatment for years. Causing untold misery for the patient and their families.

Upon being interviewed, Dr. James Howard, (neurologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), stated that the symptoms of myasthenia gravis will often beging with chronic muscle fatigue, generalized weakness, blurred or double vision, momentary slurred speech and difficulty chewing or swallowing. The symptoms improve with rest so they come and go. Often, the only visible symptom is a droopy eyelid, which is usually the first symptom of the disease.

MG occurs when the body suddenly creates antibodies that prevent the body from recognizing its own  nerve receptor sites on muscles, the doctor explained.

"The human body mounts an immune attack on normal muscle communications. Misintuprtting the normal communication as an invasion to be protected from. The result is nerve muscle communication is impaired," he explained.

Scientists and doctors have not discovered the causes of the disease and who might be most at risk.

While there is no known inherited component, it sometimes affects more than a single family member. While it crosses all age and demographic boundaries, young women and older men have the most incidences of the disease.

Since the affects of the disease is difficult to explain to others, many myasthenia gravis patients can feel alone and misunderstood. Usually they look normal to the outside world except that their facial expressions may often be misinterpreted if the muscles in the facial area are affected.

A Patient in the area, Jimmy Prince, formed a myasthenia gravis support group for people who suffer from the disease. Jimmy admitted that he had never heard of the condition at the time of his diagnosis, eight years ago.

"When the doctor told me what it was, I had no idea what he was talking about," Prince said.

June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month. The members of the support group all agree that they enjoy having one and other to lean on and share their experiences with.

"We can relate to each other and we try to help and support those in the group," Prince said.

"It's just a nice supportive time for us all in the group," Marisa Menold said. "I hope to continue going because I enjoy and appreciate their friendship and support."

With lifestyle changes and proper medication, myasthenia gravis can usually be managed. Any treatments must be specifically tailored on an individual basis because the symptoms and the severity of the disease vary so much.

Every member of Prince's support group take medications to control and reduce the weakness and fatigue, but lifestyle adjustments are just as important.

"I have to take a two or three-hour nap in the middle of the day or I can't function," Lyndsey Peterson said.

"Anybody with MG really must learn to to take a nap. And you've got to be aware of how the hot weather effects you, George Nader said.

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