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News » Autoimmune disease of the neuromuscular junction
 

Autoimmune disease of the neuromuscular junction

Myasthenia gravis is an disorder of the immune system, whereby a persons immune cells attack their own body where the nerve communicates with the muscle. Without this connection, messages from the brain to make muscles move cannot be received, resulting in muscle weakness. The cause is unknown and it affects 14 in 100,000 people in America. Common signs are due to fatigued muscles that become worse with use, including inability to open the eyelids, difficultly speaking and eating, and limb weakness. Muscle weakness is exacerbated by comorbid conditions such as viral infections, thyroid dysfunction, hyperthermia, menstruation and pregnancy. Myasthenia gravis is diagnosed in children via blood tests, a drug test that challenges the muscle weakness, which is positive if strength improves, and muscle fatigability tests by observing a child doing repetitive movements which bring about weakness. It can be treated with medications to upgrade chemical messages in the neuromuscular junction, and medications to dampen down the immune response, removal of the thymus gland that is important in childhood immunity, and cleaning the blood of antibodies via plasmapheresis. Occasionally the condition can spontaneously resolve, but there is no cure. It can become fatal if the muscles controlling breathing are involved, but the majority of cases are well maintained on medication.

Source: summary of medical news story as reported by About

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About: Autoimmune disease of the neuromuscular junction

Date: 2005

Source: About

Author: Mary Kugler

URL: http://rarediseases.about.com/cs/myastheniagravis/a/071901.htm

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