Expert Care in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis
Loyola Medicine provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder and autoimmune-related condition. It affects about 20 in 100,000 people in the United States.
With this chronic disorder, the immune system attacks normal tissue and produces antibodies. These antibodies block messages from the nerves to contract or relax certain muscles. Myasthenia gravis targets the voluntary muscles, which are muscles that a person can control; it does not affect involuntary muscles, such as the heart and the digestive tract.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms that may be due to myasthenia gravis, you want an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. Loyola’s dedicated team will determine what is causing your symptoms and deliver the highest quality of care—from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.
Why Choose Loyola for the Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis?
Loyola’s compassionate team understands that myasthenia gravis can be life-changing not only for the patient, but also for family members. Loyola takes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and provides support services for patients and families.
Our neurology and neurosurgery services are nationally recognized. As an academic medical center, Loyola provides compassionate, exceptional care to patients and trains future leaders in neurology and neurosurgery.
Loyola is a referral center for the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation and treats many patients suffering from this disease. Our neurologists are board certified in clinical neurophysiology and are experts in performing nerve conduction studies and EMG to correctly diagnose this disorder. Our neuro intensive care unit is equipped with continuous EEG and video monitoring for adults and children and is staffed by certified technologists and trained neurology nurses, who have earned Magnet status.
How is Myasthenia Gravis Diagnosed?
Myasthenia gravis can affect people of any age, but it most often develops in young women and older men. The muscle weakness brought on by this disorder worsens with activity and improves with rest. Symptoms may include:
- Arm or leg weakness
- Blurred or double vision
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty talking
- Droopy eyelids, also known as ptosis
- Drooping head
- Facial paralysis or muscle weakness
- Problems chewing or swallowing
- Problems with keeping eye contact
- Trouble climbing stairs
Your Loyola doctor will take details of your personal and medical history, then perform a physical exam and a neurological evaluation that will check:
- Muscle strength
- Muscle tone
- Sense of sight and touch
Your doctor may order some of the following tests:
- Acetylcholine receptor antibody — A blood test that checks for levels of an antibody present in 85 percent of all myasthenia gravis patients
- Anti-MuSK antibody — A blood test that checks for levels of an antibody present in 15 percent of all myasthenia gravis patients
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- Edrophonium chloride test — Also known as Tensilon test, checks for temporary symptom relief after a drug is administered
- Electromyography (EMG) — Looks for characteristic nerve stimulation patterns exhibited by this disorder
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Pulmonary function test (PFT)
- Single-fiber EMG
How is Myasthenia Gravis Treated?
Loyola offers the latest drug therapies and surgical techniques for myasthenia gravis. The goal of treatment is to improve your quality of life and increase the frequency and length of remissions.
Treatment may include:
- Immunoglobulin infusion, or IVIg, which introduces helpful antibodies into the bloodstream
- Lifestyle changes, including adding more rest time to your day as well as avoiding heat and stress, which can make symptoms worse
- Medication management
- Plasmapheresis, which removes antibodies in the blood by replacing the blood plasma
- Thymectomy, in which the thymus is removed during surgery
In some cases, it appears that myasthenia gravis is related to the thymus gland, which helps to produce antibodies. Research continues, but the mechanism behind this disease is still unclear. About 15 percent of patients with myasthenia gravis are found to have a thymoma (a tumor on the thymus). Most of these thymic tumors turn out to be benign (noncancerous), and removing them usually improves a patient’s condition.
Continuous Research and Clinical Trials to Improve Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis
As an academic medical center, Loyola Medicine is dedicated to improving future treatments by conducting research on new medications and protocols. Loyola’s patients benefit from our research discoveries; read about Loyola’s current clinical trials.