Myasthenia Gravis – Condition and Symptoms
Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disease which affects the autoimmune system. The condition is caused by a disturbance in the communication between muscles and nerves, resulting in fatigue and weakness in all of the voluntarily controlled muscles.
In addition to the primary symptoms – rapid muscle fatigue and weakness – there are a number of characteristic symptoms of myasthenia gravis, including:
- Double vision
- Speech difficulties
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dificulty chewing
- Difficulty breathing
- Drooping eyelids
Myasthenia gravis can strike people of any age or gender, but is most common amongst women under 40 and men over 60.
The symptoms experienced with myasthenia gravis often cause difficulty in performing day to day activities. The weakness in the arms, legs (and sometimes the neck) makes it difficult to perform any kind of physical activity for a prolonged period. Those who have trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing face even tougher challenges.
People who suffer from myasthenia gravis are also prone to have myasthenic crises, which are life threatening. A myasthenic crisis causes the breathing muscles to become very weak. It is critical to receive prompt medical attention to help with breathing. When a person has a myasthenic crisis, breathing machines are generally used to help them until medication and blood filtering can help them start breathing on their own again.
Other less immediately threatening but still serious conditions which are often caused by the disease include anemia, neurological problems, and thyroid problems which cause the body to expend energy faster or slower than normal.
Myasthenia gravis is generally first suspected when a person reports unusual degrees of muscle weakness which abate after spending some time resting. The suspicion is confirmed using blood testing which shows abnormalities in the blood’s antibodies. Other tests, such as single fiber electromyography, repetitive nerve stimulation, and medical imaging scans (such as CT and MRI) are also sometimes used to confirm aspects of the diagnosis.
Although there is no cure, there are a number of treatments used for myasthenia gravis. Any of the following may be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments:
- Medication. Common prescription drugs used to treat myasthenia gravis include cholinesterase inhibitors, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants. These medications can be effective in improving some of the symptoms of myasthenia gravis. Unfortunately, they each have serious side effects which can cause debilitating conditions in and of themselves with prolonged use.
- Therapy. Available therapies include blood filtering and IV immune globulin. Both are designed to impact the antibodies in the blood. As with medications, the therapies used pose significant risks, including blood pressure drop, allergic reactions, and fluid retention.
- Surgery. Generally only used if there is a thymus tumor caused by the condition. These tumors are not cancerous, but can cause other problems if not removed. Even if tumors are present, doctors will typically only perform surgery if symptoms are severe, involve muscles other than the eyes and the patient is under 60 years old.
Filing for Disability with a Myasthenia Gravis Diagnosis
The information for qualifying for Social Security disability benefits with Myasthenia Gravis are included in Section 11.12 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. More general information regarding how neurological disorders in general are adjudicated is included in Section 11.00.
To qualify for disability benefits with myasthenia gravis, according to the Blue Book, you need to meet one or both of the following conditions:
- Marked problems swallowing, breathing, or speaking despite being under prescribed medical care and following all recommended therapies.
- Marked muscle weakness and compromise of motor functioning of the arms or legs despite following all prescribed therapies.
When you file for disability, you will want to make sure that you include all medical documentation regarding your diagnosis with myasthenia gravis, including all blood and medical imaging tests. You will also want to make sure that your medical file thoroughly describes how your disabling condition limits your ability to use your arms, legs, or bodily functions.
Your Myasthenia Gravis Disability Case
Even though the qualifications for Social Security disability benefits are fairly straightforward for myasthenia gravis, it can be helpful to have a Social Security disability lawyer help you put your claim together. Many claimants who should qualify for benefits are denied disability due to fairly minor errors and omissions which would not have occurred if a professional disability attorney were handling the case.
On top of this, if you have myasthenia gravis, but the symptoms you suffer don’t quite meet the listing requirements, your Social Security disability lawyer will often be able to suggest strategies which can help you obtain benefits. This is done by demonstrating to the SSA how the combination of all of your symptoms from all conditions you suffer with are equivalent to a qualified listing.
It’s simple and free to have an experienced Social Security disability lawyer go over the details of your claim with you. To start the process, simply complete the included request for a free evaluation form.