- Rheumatoid Arthritis Slideshow
- Take the Lupus Quiz
- Multiple Sclerosis Slideshow
- Patient Comments: Myasthenia Gravis - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Myasthenia Gravis - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Myasthenia Gravis - Diagnostic Tests
- Find a local Neurologist in your town
- Myasthenia gravis facts*
- What is myasthenia gravis?
- What causes myasthenia gravis?
- What is the role of the thymus gland in myasthenia gravis?
- What are myasthenia gravis symptoms and signs?
- Who gets myasthenia gravis?
- How is myasthenia gravis diagnosed? What tests are used?
- What is the treatment for myasthenia gravis?
- What are myasthenic crises?
- What is the prognosis for myasthenia gravis?
- What research is being done on myasthenia gravis?
- Where can I get more information on myasthenia gravis?
How is myasthenia gravis treated?
Today, myasthenia gravis can generally be controlled. There are several therapies available to help reduce and improve muscle weakness. Medications used to treat the disorder include anticholinesterase agents such as neostigmine and pyridostigmine, which help improve neuromuscular transmission and increase muscle strength. Immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisone, azathioprine, cyclosporin, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus may also be used. These medications improve muscle strength by suppressing the production of abnormal antibodies. Their use must be carefully monitored by a physician because they may cause major side effects.
Thymectomy, the surgical removal of the thymus gland (which often is abnormal in individuals with myasthenia gravis), reduces symptoms in some individuals without thymoma and may cure some people, possibly by re-balancing the immune system. Thymectomy is recommended for individuals with thymoma. Other therapies used to treat myasthenia gravis include plasmapheresis, a procedure in which serum containing the abnormal antibodies is removed from the blood while cells are replaced, and high-dose intravenous immune globulin, which temporarily modifies the immune system by infusing antibodies from donated blood. These therapies may be used to help individuals during especially difficult periods of weakness. A neurologist will determine which treatment option is best for each individual depending on the severity of the weakness, which muscles are affected, and the individual's age and other associated medical problems.