Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a rare and extremely difficult neuromuscular disease, estimated to affect 14 to 20 in every 100,000 individuals, while the most frequent sufferers are aged over 40. MG is an autoimmune disease, caused by the mysterious confusion of antibodies that impair or completely destroy nicotinic acetylcholine receptors at the junction between the nerve and muscle (believed to be caused and maintained by the faulty production of the thymus gland). This results in futile nerve impulses that are unable to trigger muscle movement.
This nerve disability causes a number of serious symptoms, such as ptosis (drooping of one or both eyelids), diplopia (blurred or double vision – due to the inability to control eye movement), involuntary facial expressions, difficulty swallowing, dysarthria (speech impairment), shortness of breath and weakness in the arms, legs, hands, fingers and neck. Further complications often accompany MG, including myasthenic crisis (complete muscle failure resulting in the inability to even draw breath), thymomas (thymus tumours), under or hyperactivity of the thyroid gland (meaning reduced resistance to heat/cold and reduced/increased weight gain, along with other symptoms) and other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, and the entire treatment comes down to symptom treatment. The survival rate of patients that haven't undergone thymectomy (thyroid gland removal surgery) is around or under 50%, while their counterparts have a varying 79% chance.