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Articles » Neuromuscular Diseases: NWHIC

Neuromuscular Diseases: NWHIC

Article title: Neuromuscular Diseases: NWHIC

Conditions: multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome

Source: NWHIC



A disease of the central nervous system that usually first appears between the ages of 20 and 40 and affects women twice as often as men, MS is the leading cause of disability among young adults.

  • Symptoms: Numbness, weakness, tingling or paralysis in one or more limbs, impaired vision and eye pain, tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait, and rapid involuntary eye movement. A history of at least two episodes of a cluster of symptoms is necessary for a diagnosis of MS. Because MS affects the central nervous system, symptoms may be misdiagnosed as mental illness.
  • Treatment: The drug baclofen is used to suppress muscle spasticity, and corticosteroids help reduce inflammation. Interferons also are being used to treat this disease.
  • Prognosis: The disease is degenerative, often with a fluctuating course. Average life expectancy is 35 years after onset of symptoms. Most people with MS can function effectively; however, a rare form of acute MS can be fatal within weeks.

This is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by gradual muscle weakness, often appearing first in the face.

  • Symptoms: Drooping eyelids, double vision, and difficulty breathing, talking, chewing, and swallowing.
  • Treatment: The drug edrophonium along with daily rest periods can improve muscle strength.
  • Prognosis: Treatment can induce remission, and people can lead productive lives.

Guillain­Barré syndrome is an acute illness that causes severe nerve damage. Two­thirds of all cases occur after a viral infection.

  • Symptoms: Tingling in the fingers and toes, general muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and, in severe cases, paralysis.
  • Treatment: Supportive care until the condition is stabilized, then rehabilitation therapy combined with whirlpool baths to relieve pain and facilitate retraining of movements. A process called plasmapheresis, which removes plasma and nerve­damaging antibodies from the blood, is used during the first few weeks after a severe attack and may improve the chance of a full recovery.
  • Prognosis: Most patients recover after a period of months, but some permanent impairment remains in about 10 percent of cases. The mortality rate is 3 to 4 percent.

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