The immune system plays an important role in keeping your body healthy. It helps protect your organs and tissues from disease-causing foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses. To do this, your immune system releases specific antibodies that work to prevent infections.1
In certain situations, however, your immune system turns against your own body, causing autoimmune diseases to develop. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis.2 There is no known cure for autoimmune diseases. Instead, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms.3
One autoimmune disease you should pay attention to is myasthenia gravis, which causes weakness in your voluntary muscles throughout your body. The Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America estimates that 14 to 20 per 100,000 people, or 36,000 to 60,000 people, currently have it. Elderly men and middle-aged women are commonly at risk of this disease.4
Myasthenia gravis can be confused with other diseases
In addition to the rarity of myasthenia gravis among the population, patients have difficulty getting the proper treatment because its symptoms can be similar to other diseases. According to a study published in Seminars in Neurology, myasthenia gravis may be mixed with “disorders that limit eye movements … brainstem, cranial nerves, neuromuscular junction, muscles or local orbit anatomy.” Systemic diseases such as sepsis are possibly mixed up with myasthenia gravis as well.5
Due to the various diseases that can be confused with myasthenia gravis, a person who has it can have a delayed diagnosis that can last for months, or even years, especially if the symptoms are only mild.6
Common misconceptions about myasthenia gravis
Not many are educated about how myasthenia gravis affects the human body and how it can be treated. John L. Keefe, an attorney specializing in disability law, outlines common misconceptions about myasthenia gravis:7
- Laziness — You may think that a person with myasthenia gravis is just lazy, especially when asking for help with even the simplest of tasks. This is not true, because the disease can weaken your muscles to the point of inactivity.
- It’s made up — Some days you have normal muscle control, but on other days, your muscles become very weak. This can lead people to think you’re faking a disease.
- Exercising regularly could have helped — While regular exercise is beneficial for most people, a person with myasthenia gravis can easily become tired with the slightest movement. The cause of the fatigue is not the lack of exercise, but the faulty immune system.
- It’s just all in the mind — Saying that a person with myasthenia gravis simply doesn’t want to get better is offensive. In truth, the disease can appear at any time, causing days where you feel very weak. Support is needed for those who have the disease.
Learn more about myasthenia gravis in this guide
Myasthenia gravis is a disease that should not be taken lightly. While it usually appears in the elderly, it can still happen to anyone — even newborn children.8 This guide will help you learn about this neurological condition, including its symptoms, diagnostic methods and how it can be treated.