The Unknown Crisis
What if one morning you woke up and couldn’t open your eyes—no matter how hard you tried? As we age, losing control of muscles and bodily functions is one of the most difficult experiences we face. After age 40, we typically begin noticing blurry vision, weaker limbs, shortness of breath, and forgetfulness. These symptoms are generally considered a natural part of the aging process, but could also be attributed to any number of various disease states.
Becoming more common
Myasthenia gravis, often referred to as MG, occurs when a defect in the body’s immune system causes it to create antibodies against its own muscle tissue. The result is severe muscle fatigue, and can cause blurry or double vision, drooping eyelids, impaired speech, and weakness throughout the body. MG is commonly found in females under the age of 40 and men over the age of 60, but one can see symptoms at any age. This neuromuscular condition affects between 20,000 to 200,000 people every year. Allied Market Research Group, a consulting firm, forecasts intravenous immune globulin (IVIG), a commonly prescribed treatment to combat the symptoms of the disease, to grow in the ‘double digits between 2015 and 2021, due to the rising acceptance of IVIG.’
There are many conditions that present similar symptoms to MG. For example, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis patients commonly experience chronic fatigue; individuals with Lupus may have migraines, muscle and joint pain; and people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may feel tingling or prickling sensations throughout their body and face. Since there is limited research on MG, it tends to get overlooked as a possible diagnosis. “Because MG is rare, many physicians are not knowledgeable about it, and consequently, patients are often misdiagnosed and treated improperly for years,” said Danielle Walk, executive director of the Kansas City Myasthenia Gravis Association (MGA). “By the time many patients find us, they often are already experiencing symptoms.”
Drooping of one or both eyelids
Change in facial expression
Weakness in limbs, neck, arms, or hands
If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your physician immediately.
Danielle Walk urges individuals who have MG or who may be experiencing MG symptoms to speak to a specialist. “MGA provides individualized education and advocacy for newly diagnosed families to help them adjust to living with the condition,” she said. “We provide one-on-one consultation, education, and social services assistance, amongst many other types of help.”
There’s Good News
Home IVIG therapy is delivered by ARJ nurses in the comfort of the patient’s home. By providing normal antibodies that alter immune responses and with proper treatment, MG can be controlled. This type of care has been used for decades to treat a variety of autoimmune disorders. More recently, it has been used extensively for neuromuscular conditions. “We provide immune globulin care to individuals all over the country and find ongoing treatment may reduce or eliminate symptoms,” said Edie Williamson, Director of Nursing for ARJ. “Our patients have reported improvements in body strength, less fatigue, and a better quality of life.”