According to Medical-Surgical Nursing: 7th edition, Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease that can be considered as a chronic neuromuscular disorder (Lewis et al., 2007, p. 1555). MG is caused by an autoimmune process in which “antibodies attack acetylcholine (ACh) receptors, resulting in a decreased number of ACh receptor (AChR) sites at the neuromuscular junction” (p. 1555). Due to the neurotransmitter’s inability to connect the muscles and the nerves, it is difficult for the muscle to contract. This disease basically causes muscle fatigue and therefore a detrition of muscle strength over time. (John Hopkins Medicine, n.d.) In many respects, it is like a satellite unable to detect a signal when it is blocked by interfering radio waves.
The Yale School of Medicine’s online article concerning Myasthenia Gravis states that the term MG was first coined in 1672 by Thomas Willis. Simpson, in 1960, unveiled the mystery of MG when he theorized that it was caused by antibodies turning against the acetylcholine receptor (Yale School of Medicine, 2012). This was also proven by scientists Simpson and Nastuck observed so in 1959, who demonstrated that it was an autoimmune disease that had no connection to genetics (Conti-Fine, Milani and Kaminski, 2006).
Symptoms that occur when a person contracts Myasthenia Gravis often begin with the drooping of the eyelids. Clinical Reference Systems (2010) state that as the disease progresses, blurred vision and difficulty in maintaining a steady gaze begin to happen due to further weakness in eye muscles. Face paralysis is common, as well as slurred speech and difficulty of breathing, chewing, or swallowing due to weakness in the face and throat. This often leads to gagging, drooling, or choking on saliva. In its final stages, MG leads to an inability to walk and finally a failure of the lung muscles, resulting in death (Clinical Reference Systems, 2010).
MG is equally distributed among a population of various ethnicities, genders and ages. In the United States, approximately 20 out of 100,000 people contract this disease (John Hopkins Medicine, n.d.). Although it can occur at any age, the general population outside of the 10-65 year range infrequently contracts Myasthenia Gravis. However, studies have shown that woman from the ages 20 to 30 as well as men from the ages of 50 to 70 are more likely to contract the disease (John Hopkins Medicine, n.d.). It is sometimes present in babies of mothers affected by MG, as antibodies are transferred from the mother to the baby; however, neonatal MG is only temporary and the muscle weakness goes away after the first week of life (John Hopkins Medicine, n.d.).
While there are no cures for MG at the moment, symptom suppressant medicines and procedures to keep the symptoms under control do exist. Immunosuppressive drugs are the most common route of action, and medication such as asprednisone, cyclosporine and azathioprine must be taken until the end of a...