Medical IDs for Myasthenia Gravis
The confidence to live with myasthenia gravis
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a relatively rare autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that affects muscle strength. Although MG is not typically a life-limiting illness, it requires treatment and management to improve functioning and quality of life.
People with myasthenia gravis can expect their symptoms to come and go, often worsening after activity. This disorder affects different people in different ways. It can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms of MG happen with many other medical problems as well.
Understanding MG and the complications it can cause, like a myasthenic crisis, is important if you’ve been diagnosed. By following your doctor’s treatment plan and being proactive, you can continue to live a full and active life with MG.
Medical IDs for myasthenia gravis can be extremely helpful for people living with the condition.
How MedicAlert protects those living with myasthenia gravis
One thing you shouldn’t worry about is what could happen if there’s an emergency. MedicAlert’s protection plans offer benefits that extend beyond the ID, providing safety and peace of mind for people living with myasthenia gravis, their families and caregivers.
24/7 Emergency Response
Our team provides first responders the information they need to provide fast, accurate care.
Digital Health Profile
All your vital information, all in one place for you and your caregiver.
Emergency Contact Notification
In an emergency, we connect families so that no one is alone in a crisis.
Share the information that’s important to your care, such as use of rescue medications or contraindication for tests like MRIs.
Pair medical IDs for myasthenia gravis with the protection plan that’s right for you.
What exactly is myasthenia gravis?
The name “myasthenia gravis” essentially means “grave muscle weakness.” Myasthenia gravis affects 2 to 7 people out of 10,000 and is most common in women under the age of 40 and men over the age of 60. It happens rarely in children. Between birth and age 19 this is called Juvenile MG; it can also temporarily affect babies born to mothers with MG, or in rare cases, infants can have a congenital form.
The muscle weakness and fatigue caused by MG commonly affects muscles that control the eyes, mouth, throat, and limbs. This is because MG causes antibodies to form that interfere with normal nerve impulses between the brain and muscles.
What causes myasthenia gravis?
Researchers are still trying to understand the full causes of myasthenia gravis, but it is understood that MG is an autoimmune disorder. In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body as foreign. With MG, the immune system attacks the part of nerve cells (the neuromuscular junction) that is needed for the brain to send signals to muscles to move.
This part of the nerve cells that are damaged is most often a receptor for a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This chemical needs to attach to these receptors for muscles to work properly. With the receptors damaged, muscles cannot move normally.
It is also believed the thymus gland may be involved in MG. This gland controls immune function and is enlarged in up to 75% of people with MG. Abnormalities in the cells of the thymus gland may cause the immune system to malfunction and attack nerve cells. Some people with MG develop a non-cancerous tumor of the thymus gland called a thymoma.
In babies born to mothers with MG, the antibodies (the immune system’s messenger cells) that incorrectly attack nerve cells can sometimes be passed to the baby through the placenta and cause temporary MG-like symptoms that resolve after birth.
What are the symptoms and complications of myasthenia gravis?
Myasthenia gravis affects voluntary muscles (the ones you control). These include eye muscles, facial muscles, the throat and mouth muscles used in speaking and eating, and arms, legs, and hands.
Because MG affects muscle movement, symptoms usually involve these muscles. These symptoms can vary widely from person to person and the intensity and muscle groups involved can fluctuate as well. At its most basic level, MG causes muscle weakness that worsens with activity.
Some of the symptoms a person may notice, depending on which muscles are affected, include:
- Double or blurry vision
- Drooping of the eyelids
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking, or smiling
- Extreme fatigue in muscles that have been exercised
- Weakness in limbs, hands, the neck, or face
- Difficulty coughing, taking a deep breath or breathing
In around 15-20% of people with MG, a serious complication called myasthenic crisis can develop. When a person experiences a myasthenic crisis, the muscles that help with breathing become so weak that a ventilator (breathing machine) is needed to help with breathing until the muscle strength returns. A myasthenic crisis can be triggered by stress, medications, infection, surgery, or an unknown cause.
Wearing MedicAlert IDs for myasthenia gravis at all times can help save your life in a myasthenic crisis. By clearly communicating your history of MG to first responders in an emergency, the right treatment can be started promptly.
What to engrave on your MedicAlert medical ID for myasthenia gravis:
MedicAlert offers free custom engraving on all our medical ID products. Engravings on medical IDs for myasthenia gravis should include any critical medical information that can protect and save lives in an accident or medical emergency, for example:
- Your medical history, including MG
- Any other important details you want to be visible
Sample engraving. Consult our team if you need help engraving your medical ID for myasthenia gravis.
How do you diagnose myasthenia gravis?
Diagnosing myasthenia gravis can be a challenge for healthcare providers. As discussed above, the symptoms can come and go and can be different each time even for the same person. Many other health problems also cause weakness and fatigue.
To pinpoint MG, there are specific tests that can help:
- Blood tests for antibodies– there are several antibodies identified in MG that can be found in the blood. Most commonly, an antibody to AChR (acetylcholine receptors) is seen. Another antibody called MuSK (muscle-specific serum kinase) can sometimes be found as well.
- Neurological exam– a trained specialist (neurologist) can test muscle strength, movement, tone, and reflexes to find abnormalities.
- Ice test– using ice to cool a weak muscle, like a drooping eyelid, can temporarily improve muscle function in people with MG
- CT scan– used to look at the thymus gland and find any signs of enlargement
- Single fiber electromyography (EMG)– this test uses a needle electrode inserted into a muscle to read the electrical output of muscle movement. Abnormalities can mean MG is affecting the muscle.
- Nerve conduction studies– by repeatedly stimulating a muscle with small electrical impulses, providers can see if the muscle is overly fatigued by the contractions this causes.
- Edrophonium test– this uses a medication called edrophonium chloride (Tensilon) to increase the neurotransmitter acetylcholine temporarily in the body. In people with MG, this can reduce symptoms of muscle weakness.
Usually, a combination of these tests is needed to help narrow down a diagnosis of myasthenia gravis.
MedicAlert Foundation is proud to partner with NORD to provide support, educational resources and tools to help those affected by rare disease live more safely and confidently.
How do you treat myasthenia gravis?
The treatment for myasthenia gravis can include more than one approach and will be tailored to each person by their medical specialist. Although there is no cure for MG, these treatments help control the symptoms of the disease and improve quality of life:
- Monoclonal antibodies– a medication called eculizumab can be used to work with the immune system to treat the problem that attacks the acetylcholine receptors
- Immunosuppressive medications– although they often have side effects, these medications can offer relief by reducing the immune system response causing abnormal antibodies
- Anticholinesterase medications– these drugs slow the normal breakdown of acetylcholine and improve nerve transmission
- Thymectomy– this surgical procedure removes the thymus gland and can improve symptoms
- Plasmapheresis and immunoglobulin– these therapies either remove or bind to harmful antibodies in the blood, offering temporary relief from MG. They are often used in severe cases.
Because MG symptoms can fluctuate, and myasthenic crisis can happen even with treatment, it’s important to be sure you are prepared for any emergencies. Wearing a MedicAlert ID is an extra layer of protection for these situations, ensuring that your medical history and any medications you take are shared quickly with first responders.
How medical IDs for myasthenia gravis combined with MedicAlert Membership provide peace of mind
Because myasthenia gravis is a chronic illness, if you’ve been diagnosed your doctor may recommend you wear a medical ID. A high-quality medical ID for myasthenia gravis ensures that first responders have all of your important medical information in an emergency.
MedicAlert has been saving lives for the past 65 years and is a globally recognized symbol for medical emergencies. With a MedicAlert ID, you can worry less knowing that MedicAlert can be your voice in an emergency, even if you can’t share critical details about your care with first responders.
- We’re your voice: If you can’t speak for yourself due to a medical emergency, your ID will speak for you – informing others about your myasthenia gravis and any medications you’re taking.
- 24/7 emergency protection: In an emergency, the MedicAlert team will relay all of your critical medical information to first responders, no matter where or when your emergency happens.
- Always connected: You should never be alone in an emergency. That’s why MedicAlert will reach out to your designated contacts if you are unable to do so.
- Live with peace of mind and confidence: MedicAlert will be there for you every step of the way. You’ll have the confidence and freedom to live your life with myasthenia gravis, knowing we’ve got you covered.