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Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a disease characterized by muscle weakness, the individual easily tiring, with recovery of strength after rest. It occurs more frequently in women than men, usually betWeen the ages of fifteen and fifty years There is an inability to sustain muscular activity, which progresses over a period of a few weeks. The muscles of swallowing, speaking and chewing, and also the muscles of the eve, are those most often involved, but any muscle or group of muscles may be affected. Myasthenia gravis may be associated with various diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anaemia, cancer or an overactive thyroid gland; usually, however, no underlying disease is found.

Symptoms

Initially strong movements of the muscles quickly become weaker, resulting in such symptoms as double vision, dragging eyelids, difficulty in swallowing or slurring of the speech, and these symptoms are often worse at the end of the day. Muscles of the limbs or trunk may be affected, and if the shoulder muscles are involved, such activities as combing the hair become impossible without frequent rests. There is usually no loss of reflexes or sensation, and wasting of the muscles becomes apparent only after a long time. Occasionally the muscle sphincters that control the bladder or bowel may be involved, causing incontinence.

Treatment

There is no cure for myasthenia gravis but treatment with special drugs can usually control the symptoms, which sometimes remit spontaneously. In selected cases removal of the thymus gland is effective. Most people with this disease can live a fairly full and normal life.

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