Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 313 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 8-Nov-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 9-Nov-2004
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Pain often overlooked in myasthenia gravis patients

Patients with myasthenia gravis (MG), a neuromuscular disorder primarily characterized by muscle weakness and muscle fatigue, reported in a new survey by Penn State University researchers that the disease impacts their quality of life.

While this finding is not totally unexpected, the fact that a significant percentage reported experiencing pain as a result of their illness is. “That such a large number of surveyed patients reported pain associated with their disease,” explained researcher Dr. Milind Kothari, “is very surprising.”

Kothari and fellow researcher, Dr. Kevin Scott, anticipated that most of those surveyed would indicate that MG limits their ability to work or perform moderately intense activities. “We were surprised, though, to see 50% of the patients report experiencing significant pain as a result of their illness with over a quarter reporting pain of moderate or greater severity. Pain is not commonly associated with this disease.”

The surprising aspect of the survey results is that the patients’ physicians were generally not aware that their patients were in pain and, consequently, failed to treat it appropriately. The authors recommend physicians should routinely query their MG patients about pain and decide if this warrants treatment.

Myasthenia Gravis results from an abnormal immune reaction in which the body's natural immune defenses (i.e., antibodies) inappropriately attack and gradually destroy certain receptors in muscles that receive nerve impulses.

Most individuals with MG develop weakness and drooping of the eyelids; weakness of eye muscles, resulting in double vision; and excessive muscle fatigue following activity. In addition, in about 10 percent of cases, affected individuals may develop potentially life-threatening complications due to severe involvement of muscles used during breathing. Although the disorder usually becomes apparent during adulthood, symptom onset may occur at any age.

The full survey results will be reported at the 51st annual meeting of the American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine in Savannah, Georgia, November 3-6.

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