While you may naturally chalk up drooping eyelids and double vision to simply aging, in actuality, you could have a condition called myasthenia gravis.
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition that affects muscular strength. It can have many symptoms, but two of the most common are drooping eyes and double vision. Myasthenia gravis interrupts the communication that typically happens between nerves and muscles, causing weakness and rapid fatigue. As an autoimmune disorder, patients with myasthenia gravis have immune systems that produce antibodies that are working to block or destroy receptor sites in the muscles for a specific neurotransmitter. Because of this, the patient’s muscles don’t get as many nerve signals as they should be getting, which results in the muscle weakness and fatigue.
Early Detection Is Key
Though myasthenia gravis can affect people of any age, it’s more common in women younger than 40 and men older than 60.
Myasthenia gravis has no cure, but catching it early enough can help relieve signs and symptoms significantly in many patients. To catch it early, though, you need to know what to look for.
Besides drooping eyes and double vision, weakness in these muscle groups may be experienced as well:
- Neck and limb muscles that cause weakness in your arms and legs or make holding up your head difficult.
- Face and throat muscles that may cause changes in speech, difficulty in swallowing that makes it difficult to eat, drink, or take pills, problems chewing, and limit facial expressions.
People with myasthenia gravis also have an increased risk for underactive or overactive thyroid and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Are there Treatment Options?
Myasthenia gravis symptoms can be treated, although the disease itself can’t be cured. Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your case, there are an array of options available. Medications from inhibitors that improve muscle contraction and strength to corticosteroids to immunosuppressants which can help stop your body from attacking itself can all be prescribed depending on your individual health. Certain IV therapies can also be used to treat symptoms by altering your body's immune response to preserve nerve signal transmission. In very severe cases of myasthenia gravis, or in cases where a suspected tumor in the thymus gland is causing the issue, surgery is also a possibility.
Dr. Sachs is a board-certified Neurology specialist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center, the Berthelsen Main Campus, and The Woodlands Clinic. His clinical interests include autoimmune diseases, myasthenia gravis, Parkinson’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), transient ischemic attack (TIA), vascular disease, and vertigo.