Myasthenia gravis may affect many aspects of your physical and mental health. Be alert to issues described here and talk to your doctor as concerns arise.
Other Autoimmune Diseases
People with MG are more likely to suffer from another autoimmune disease as well. These can include thyroid disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. With thyroid disease, an episode of hypothyroidism may trigger a flare up of MG weakness.
Medication Side Effects
When MG patients gather, first they compare symptoms, then treatments. Inevitably, talk next turns to medication side effects.
Almost every medication has side effects—effects on the body that are not intended and are not helpful. Which side effect(s) you experience depends on your individual makeup, the dose, the length of time you take the medication, other drugs you’re taking, and so on. Simply put, everyone is different.
It’s important to discuss the side effects of every medication you take with your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe extra medications and vitamin supplements, for example, to ease digestive problems or prevent bone loss.
Corticosteroids like prednisone are worth a special mention here. They are used often as a first line of defense with MG because they work more quickly than other immunosuppressant drugs. But the side effects can be numerous. And sometimes a “side effect”—even from medications for another condition–can become more serious and life-changing than your MG. Read the fine print that comes with your medication. Keep up with regular blood tests, eye exams and other recommended checks.
Hear from an Expert
Watch Dr. Alex Barboi discuss prednisone side effects on our YouTube channel
MG patients often have sleep problems, either with the quantity or quality of sleep. You might experience insomnia, or symptoms of sleep apnea such as loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, and repeated stops in breathing as you sleep. Your sleeping partner may be aware of such problems before you are.
MG doesn’t necessarily cause these symptoms directly. Instead, the culprits can be MG medications, depression, or inactivity.
Be sure to discuss sleep problems with your doctor to rule out other, more serious causes. Many sleep concerns can be treated easily with improved sleep habits.
Some MG patients have trouble with weight loss if MG affects their swallowing or chewing. It may help to switch temporarily to a soft diet, and to use these Tips for Eating.
A more common problem for MG patients is weight gain. Muscle weakness limits your activity, and medications like prednisone can increase appetite. A growing body of research tells us the extra pounds add significantly to health problems as we age. While weight is a complicated issue for many of us, it’s important to make an effort to reach and maintain a healthy weight. See more at Nutrition.
Do you see a glass half full? Half empty? Or simply holding four ounces?
A positive attitude helps you get through each day with hope, gratitude and humor. It helps you manage your worries and maintain relationships. With or without MG symptoms, it allows you to feel better mentally.
But how can you be positive when you see life through the prism of illness? Sometimes we have to intentionally choose and practice a positive attitude. You can improve your positive thinking, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Try these steps:
- Practice. Can you think of something you appreciate right now?
- Put it in your daily schedule. Express something positive when you brush your teeth, at mealtime, or before you sleep.
- Hang out with optimistic people. If a group conversation turns petty or whiny, maybe it’s time to excuse yourself.
- Research. Try the library or a book store for books that discuss how to live with illness. To get started, read Hoping, Coping & Moping, Handling Life When Illness Makes It Tough by Ronna Jevne, Ph.D.
Purposefully insert positive thoughts and affirmations into your day.
Continual or recurring stress can cause a variety of health problems and has been shown to weaken the immune system. It is important to recognize the symptoms of stress and ways to manage it. Following are some simple suggestions:
- Recreational reading
- Listening to music
- Visualization/guided imagery
- Exercise (if possible)
- Reading for inspiration or spiritual growth
This link from MedicineNet.com provides an excellent overview of stress and stress management.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, publishes a guide called “Next Steps After Your Diagnosis.” This document describes five steps to help you cope with your diagnosis, make decisions, and get on with your life, as well as provide resources for additional information.
Hear from an Expert
Watch clips from one of these videos on our YouTube channel:
Many people who are diagnosed with a threatening medical condition can develop depression. Depression is very real and can be debilitating. It can keep you from reaching out for help when you need it most.
Symptoms may include a lack of joy, magnified sadness, feelings of emptiness or isolation, persistent pessimism, loss of interest in daily life, difficulty making decisions, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances – being unable to sleep or sleeping too much, gloominess or thoughts of suicide.
Because the mind and body are so closely connected, depression can make your myasthenia gravis worse. Working to overcome depression is essential to improve your overall health. If possible, seek help from a trusted, competent therapist.
MG patients face a catch-22: many antidepressant medications can worsen MG, or may not be effective. If you see a mental health professional, make sure that person knows your full medical history.
This link from Caremark provides knowledgeable insights about the connection between chronic illness and depression.
Hear from an Expert
Watch Suzanne Yellen, PhD, and therapist Susan O’Connell, M.Ed., on our YouTube channel.
Reviewed by the Conquer MG Medical Advisory Board, February 2015.
Unless otherwise stated, the information provided here is of a general nature, composed by non-medical personnel. It is meant to be accurate and helpful advice for MG patients. It is not intended to be medical opinion, nor is it a substitute for personal professional medical care.