Myasthenia Gravis

The St. Luke’s Center for Neuroscience is dedicated to expert care of conditions of the nervous system.

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic disease caused by a transmission breakdown between the body's muscles and nerves. Myasthenia gravis causes muscle weakness by prompting the immune system to produce infection-fighting proteins that block or destroy many of the receptor locations for nerve impulses in muscles. This disease most commonly affects muscles that control facial expressions, eye movement and swallowing.


Treatments for myasthenia gravis can prevent it from becoming debilitating. Doctors relieve symptoms of myasthenia gravis by using several methods. Some of these treatment methods are:

  • Medications—Doctors can prescribe drugs to boost communication between nerves and muscles. These drugs improve muscle strength.
  • Thymectomy—This surgery to remove the thymus gland can benefit some people with myasthenia gravis, but its effectiveness is being analyzed.
  • Plasmapheresis—A procedure to remove antibodies from blood that block transmission of signals from nerve endings to muscle receptor locations.
  • Intravenous immune globulin—Therapy that places normal antibodies in the body. These introduced antibodies allow for normal immune system function. Like surgery, the effectiveness of this therapy is being analyzed.


Currently, there is no known way to prevent myasthenia gravis. However, several steps can be taken to help lessen the symptoms. For instance, people with myasthenia gravis should consult their doctor before taking certain medications, such as antibiotics, heart medications and psychiatric drugs, because they may make the symptoms worse. Also, hot conditions tend to worsen the symptoms of myasthenia gravis.