Myasthenia Gravis

What is myasthenia gravis?

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease that causes the muscles, especially in the eyes, mouth, throat, and limbs, to weaken after periods of activity. The weakness usually improves after a period of rest. When this condition occurs in children, it’s called juvenile myasthenia gravis (JMG).

Most children with JMG have symptoms that come and go throughout their lives. The degree of muscle weakness and the muscles that are affected vary from person to person. In some cases, JMG may be a life-threatening condition. However, with treatment, most children with the disease improve over time and some children go into remission (symptom-free periods) for long periods of time.

What are the symptoms of myasthenia gravis?

The most common symptom of myasthenia gravis is muscle weakness that gets worse later in the day or after a period of activity.

Other common symptoms can include:

  • drooping eyelids or double vision
  • difficulty speaking
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue
  • weak neck muscles
  • problems walking
  • lopsided facial expressions

Every person with myasthenia gravis doesn’t have all of these symptoms, and the symptoms can change over time.

The symptoms of myasthenia gravis can get worse from:

  • alcohol use
  • fatigue or lack of sleep
  • taking certain medications, including penicillamine, interferons, certain antibiotics, and cardiovascular drugs

What is the cause of myasthenia gravis?

It is not known why certain people develop myasthenia gravis. It is not a condition that is passed down in families.

How we care for myasthenia gravis

At the Boston Children’s Hospital Neuromuscular Center, our team of world-renowned experts in child neurology, orthopedics, genetics, and ophthalmology treat a wide range of rare disorders, including myasthenia gravis.

We use the most advanced diagnostic and treatment methods available and incorporate minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. Our teams will work together with your family to develop treatment plans that meet your child's unique needs.

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