At-Home Treatment Options for Myasthenia Gravis
What is myasthenia gravis?
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a rare, lifelong autoimmune disease that involves disruption of normal communication between nerves and muscles. Nerves release a specific neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, that binds to muscle receptor sites at the neuromuscular junction of skeletal muscles. When working properly, this signals the muscles to contract. MG causes the immune system to create antibodies that block these receptor sites, resulting in communication disruption between the nerves and muscles. As fewer nerve signals are received by the muscles, muscle fatigue and weakness occur. Voluntary muscles of the body, especially the mouth, eyes, throat and limbs, are typically affected by MG.
In addition to conventional treatment or alternative and complementary treatment for MG, certain at-home treatment options may be helpful in reducing symptoms. Lifestyle modifications may also be beneficial.
At-home treatment options for myasthenia gravis include the following:
The use of an eye patch can help with double vision (Diplopia), which is a symptom of MG. It can ease the stress placed on the eyes when watching TV, reading, using a computer or cell phone, writing, etc. The best method is to alternate which eye is covered to avoid straining either eye.
Simple tasks, such as tooth-brushing, opening cans, or mixing cake batter, can increase fatigue and muscle weakness associated with MG. Adaptive equipment may be beneficial to assist in the kitchen or bathroom, and while cleaning or dressing, to conserve energy when performing everyday tasks.
Myasthenia gravis can cause muscle weakness and fatigue, which can increase fall risks. A support bar or railing in specific locations, such as in the shower or close to steps, can decrease this risk. To help prevent falls, individuals should ensure there is a clear outside pathway by having someone rake, shovel, and clear debris. Moving toys and area rugs also makes inside walking safer.
Adjust eating habits
MG can cause difficulty chewing and swallowing. Tips to help with this include the following:
- Eat when good muscle strength is present.
- Chew food slowly and take breaks between bites.
- Eat several smaller meals each day, instead of three large meals.
- Eat soft foods and avoid foods that require a lot of chewing, such as tough meat or certain fresh vegetables.
- Avoid bread and dry, crumbly food, such as crackers or chips.
- Chop or mince solid foods.
- Sit upright and avoid tilting the head back when swallowing.
For more specific tips on how to adjust to eating with MG, check out Conquer MG.
Infection prevention and treatment
Infections can cause MG symptoms to worsen. Therefore, it is essential to practice proper hygiene, avoid individuals who are sick, and seek immediate treatment for any infections that arise.
Avoid extreme weather
Extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, can cause MG symptoms to flare. Making sure to regulate body temperature can help reduce symptoms. Humidity is also a factor that may impact the severity of MG symptoms and should be avoided when possible.
Avoid overexertion by pacing and planning
Doing too much can lead to worsening symptoms in those with MG. Activity planning and activity pacing can alleviate some exhaustion associated with MG, while conserving energy. Strenuous tasks should be completed at the beginning of each day.
Sleep, nap and rest
Getting a good night’s sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene is important when dealing with MG. Napping can help replenish energy levels, while giving the muscles time to relax. Resting with the eyes closed throughout the day can also be beneficial.
Engaging in regular physical activity is helpful for individuals. When dealing with MG, physical activity should be pleasant, non-stressful, and done within an individual's limits. It should not require maximum output and produce weakness. Individuals with MG should consult with a health care professional or physical therapist for specific exercising guidelines.
Additional source: Conquering MG