Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is a very rare and chronic AUTOIMMUNE NEUROMUSCULAR disorder that affects muscles used to move, breathe, swallow, and see. It is characterized by overactive antibody production that results in muscle weakness. This disorder was once thought to only affect adults, but MG is now being discovered in children.
This disorder is considered a "snowflake" disorder because no two patients experience the exact same symptoms. However, the most common symptoms include fluctuating weakness and fatigue of muscles in the eyes, face, or arms and legs. Muscles used for breathing and swallowing can be affected.
Being overly tired can trigger MG symptoms and cause a breathing or swallowing crisis for MGKids. Therefore, MGKids need to get enough rest. Sometimes this means MGKids can tire out very fast, but they cannot recognize it. As a parent, you may need to watch out for signals that show that your child is overtired or at risk of experiecing a crisis.
The term "myasthenia gravis" literally translates to severe muscle weakness. In Greek, "myasthenia" means "muscle weakness", and "gravis" is the Latin word for severe.
Pediatric MG is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the body makes antibodies against itself. The body makes antibodies attacking the acetylcholine receptors. This keeps the nerves from sending signals to the muscles to move. Therefore, the muscles are weak and tend to fatigue quickly. We don’t know all the reasons pediatric MG occurs, but genetic and environmental factors play a part. Strong parent involvement, education, and treatment with medication are important in managing this disorder. Chances of remission are higher in young children compared to adults.
As a parenent, you might be the first person to identify the onset of MG or the start of an MG crisis. By watching for these symptoms, you can treat your MGKid quickly and hopefully avoid a crisis:
- Trouble smiling
- Sudden change in voice
- Double vision (in young kids, they may cover one eye to see something far away to get rid of the double vision)
- Droopy eyelids
- Slurred speech
- Swallowing/chewing problems
- Difficulty closing mouth
- Difficulty with breathing
- Neck weakness
- Arm and/or leg weakness
NEONATAL MYASTHENIA GRAVIS
This disorder occurs in babies born to myasthenic mothers when antibodies cross the placenta and affect the baby. Usually this is short-lasting weakness and it improves.
OCULAR MYASTHENIA GRAVIS
Patients with this variation of MG only have weakness in the muscles controlling the eye, but this can progress to more general MG symptoms as a person ages.
CONGENITAL MYASTHENIA SYNDROME (CMS)
These are genetic disorders which cause signals at the junction of the muscle and nerve to be sent improperly. No autoantibodies are made. Therefore, treatment is different for these disorders. It is important to make this distinction from myasthenia gravis, but it can be difficult for providers who aren’t familiar with myasthenia gravis because they are rare.
PEDIATRIC VARIATIONS OF MG?
Refers to cases when the immune system
attacks and damages its own cells or tissues.
Refers to nerves and muscles.
Refers to an event when your MGKid cannot breathe or swallow adequately. A Crisis is rare, but if breathing is affected to the point of arrest, intubation could be required.