What is myasthenia gravis? Myasthenia gravis is a neurological condition characterized by weakness of the skeletal muscles. In myasthenia gravis, only the muscles used for movement (not involuntary muscles such as the heart) are affected. Myasthenia gravis arises because the body’s own immune system attacks the point at which the nerves signal the muscles to move. Over time, the nerves lose their ability to stimulate muscles. Myasthenia gravis is a result of impaired communication between nerves and muscles. In particular, in myasthenia gravis, the body makes antibodies (autoantibodies) that block the receptors for an important neurotransmitter chemical at the point where nerves join muscles. As with many other autoimmune disorders, you are more likely to get myasthenia gravis if you have other autoimmune conditions. A significant number of individuals diagnosed with myasthenia gravis have an abnormal growth in their thymus, a lymphoid organ that processes immune-regulating cells. Symptoms of myasthenia gravis, in addition to muscle weakness, include difficulty breathing, difficulty eating, eyelid droop, facial paralysis, fatigue, and difficulty with vision. Most of these symptoms worsen with physical activity. While these symptoms generally can be controlled, in some cases a myasthenic attack can occur. These attacks impair the function of breathing muscles and can be life threatening if not immediately treated. There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but it can be treated. Certain lifestyle factors can be changed to improve symptoms, such as decreasing physical activities and avoiding stress. Medications for myasthenia gravis include drugs to help with nerve signaling and suppress the autoimmune response. In some situations, plasmapheresis (a blood purification process) or an immunoglobulin infusion (infusion of helpful antibodies) can be used to alleviate symptoms. In patients with severe symptoms, surgery may be required to remove all or part of the thymus, an organ that is important in the development of immune system cells. In many cases, these treatments can cause myasthenia gravis to go into remission. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of a myasthenic attack such as severe difficulty breathing. Myasthenic attacks can be life threatening. Seek prompt medical care for any symptoms of myasthenia gravis, as this is a serious condition which can be alleviated with medical treatment.