What is Myasthenia Gravis? (revisited)

At a time when there is a pandemic going on and the US is dealing with protests and riots because of the murder of George Floyd, posting this seems almost irrelevant, but it’s something my family has dealt and lived with for years, and I will continue to post this every June.

June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month.

What is Myasthenia Gravis (MG)?

A not too well known autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that usually takes 1-2 years to diagnose, it’s also called the snowflake disease because every case is different. It usually starts with a routine infection, like the cold or the flu, and then myasthenic symptoms start to appear, but are often misdiagnosed. It isn’t a genetic disorder, making it possible for anyone to develop it.

Generally, MG involves muscle weakness. This can be localized to certain parts of the body, such as in ocular MG where only the eyes are affected, or generalized to all parts of the body. It usually doesn’t result in death, unless someone enters myasthenic crisis and doesn’t receive medical help right away, but does tend to limit the amount of activity someone can do. The more exertion, the more tired an MG patient becomes. It can be devastating to individuals and families when their loved one is no longer able to do the things they were once able to.

MG
image from http://www.myasthenia.org/WhatisMG.aspx

For more information, check out: http://www.myasthenia.org/

Why is this important? And why do I even know about it and spread awareness?

My mom was diagnosed with this over 10 years ago. At the time, she was the mother of two adolescents and one pre-adolescent. It wasn’t an easy time, and finding our mother asleep on the couch in the middle of the day because she was just so exhausted was hard for us. I was, and still am, very close to my mom and was old enough to realize something was wrong. Her symptoms came and went over a couple of years, making it difficult for doctors to diagnose her.

It took almost 2 years for her to be properly diagnosed. Two years of useless treatments, countless doctor appointments, and dietary changes that didn’t help. There were periods when she was better and periods when she was too tired to do anything. It was hard on us as a family. We didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know what MG was, didn’t know if Mom was going to be okay.

I’m happy to say that, more than 10 years later, my mom is very stable. Due to dietary changes that just happened to work in her case and the proper medication, she hardly feels the effects of MG most days and lives a relatively normal life. She is now gluten-free and a shot of tequila (it’s the agave that does it) every afternoon helps her feel almost normal.

Spread Awareness

Even now, years after MG entered our family, it isn’t a well-known disorder. I’ve only met one other person who has ever met someone with it. People who have it are routinely misdiagnosed or even ignored. There is a blood test and a muscle test that can tell whether or not someone has it, but most doctors don’t know this disorder, which makes diagnosis difficult. My mom got lucky that her doctor knew of a specialist who had another patient with MG. Otherwise it could have taken many more years before she was properly diagnosed.

So, wear teal and spread the word, because most people just don’t know what Myasthenia Gravis is.

    • kat

      I’m so glad to know you’ve heard of it! It’s so rare to find someone who has even just heard the name, much less know what it is, but every person who at least has heard of it is one more person who can spread the word about it. My mom thinks there are a lot more people with it who are just misdiagnosed and are suffering, so she really tries to talk as much as she can about it and so do I. We’re very happy she’s managing it well, but it’s somehow led to two cats named Whiskey and Tequila, so we joke we must sound like lushes whenever we’re calling one of the cats.

      • Lisa R. Howeler

        I bet you there are a lot of people dealing with this who have no idea. Honestly the weakness in arms and legs sounds like me but the other symptoms don’t. I have to keep my electrolytes up or I get very weak at times. Who knows but I am glad to know what it is now. I honestly think the wife of one of our pastors might have had this. Maybe that’s why it sounds familiar to me.

      • kat

        There probably are. The biggest problem is that it actually looks different in every single person with it, so, the more people who know about it, the more people there will be to ask their doctor to be tested for it.

      • kat

        I hope you do! There isn’t much, but hopefully one day there will be and there will be more awareness of it.

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