Myasthenia Gravis (MG) Awareness Day
Monday, 18 February 2008
Today, Monday 18th of February is Myasthenia Gravis (MG) awareness day and it was launched earlier today at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin.
Myasthenia Gravis is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system attacks and damages the nerve signal reception areas. This causes a breakdown between nerve and muscle and results in loss of effectiveness in the muscles of the arms, legs and eyes. MG is not a painful disease but can be very debilitating if not treated. One in every 10,000 people suffers from MG and many more go undiagnosed and misdiagnosed due to a lack of awareness of the condition. Right now there are over 500 sufferers of the disease known to the Myasthenia Gravis Association here in Ireland.
Ronnie Whelan - ex Irish Footballer and patron of the Myasthenia Gravis Association (MGA).
Julie Dalton - MG Sufferer
About Myasthenia Gravis (MG)
What is MG?
Myasthenia Gravis is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system attacks and damages the nerve signal reception areas. This causes a breakdown between nerve and muscle and results in loss of effectiveness in the muscles of the arms, legs and eyes. MG is not a painful disease but can be very debilitating if not treated. It is known as the 'rag doll' illness as it renders people weak and floppy when they have an attack of MG.
Who gets MG?
MG occurs in all races, in both genders and at any age. It is not thought to be directly inherited, nor is it contagious. Occasionally it occurs in more than one member of the same family. It most commonly affects young adult women (under 40) and older men (over 60), but it can occur at any age.
Research shows that
. 80% of MG sufferers are over 55
. 13% of MG sufferers are between 21 and 55
. 7% of MG sufferers are under 21
What are the symptoms?
The onset of MG may be sudden and may affect any voluntary muscle, although muscles that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression and swallowing are the most frequently affected.
In most cases, the first noticeable symptom of the disease is weakness of the eye muscles. In others, difficulty in swallowing and slurred speech may be the first signs. The degree of muscle weakness varies greatly among patients, ranging from a form of MG that is limited to eye muscles to a severe form in which many muscles - sometimes including those that control breathing - are affected. Symptoms, which vary in type and severity, may include a drooping of one or both eyelids; blurred or double vision due to weakness of the muscles that control eye movements; an unstable or waddling gait; weakness in the arms, hands, fingers, legs and neck; a change in facial expression; difficulty in swallowing; shortness of breath and impaired speech.
. A drooping eyelid
. Blurred or double vision
. Slurred speech
. Difficulty chewing and swallowing
. Weakness in the arms and legs
. Chronic muscle fatigue
. Difficulty breathing
MG is not a painful disease, but it can be debilitating if not treated.
How is MG treated?
There is no known cure for MG, but effective treatments are available that allow many - though not all - people with MG to lead full lives. Common treatments include medications, thymectomy (surgical removal of the thymus gland, our case study has had this procedure carried out) and plasmapheresis (plasma exchange). In some people, muscle weakness may completely disappear as a result of treatments. This is called a remission.
The effectiveness of current treatments for MG means that the outlook for most patients is bright. Although they will not be cured, treatments will lead to significant improvements in the muscle weakness of most patients. In some cases, MG may go into remission for a time, during which time no treatment is necessary.