Monday, February 13, 2012

How is Myasthenia Gravis Diagnosed?

One definitive test for myasthenia gravis is a Tensilon Test.  It involves an injection of a medication called Tensilon, also called edrophonium. The technical specs behind how Tensilon works uses imaginary words like acetylcholine and acetylcholinesterase. Since twenty letter words generally take twenty sentences to explain, I'll simplify this. If someone has MG, Tensilon improves how muscles and nerves communicate.

When the test is positive, the results can be dramatic. How dramatic? Well, watch the video.

Yes, even dogs can have myasthenia gravis. Unfortunately, Tensilon only lasts long enough for a diagnosis. Just minutes after the video ended, the dog’s strength vanished again. He looked exactly like he did at the beginning of the video. Just like me, his muscles turned off like a switch.

MG has no cure, but it can be treated. One of the first treatments for that dog, and for me, was Mestinon. It's a pill that works like Tensilon only it lasts several hours. How well Mestinon works varies from patient to patient. I find it moderately helpful.

Mestinon has a strange habit of working well for one group of muscles while totally screwing up a different set. Different parts of my body are always under-dosed, overdosed, and perfectly balanced, all at the same time. In other words, the dosage that makes walking easy also makes it impossible to chew. Or, the other way around. Or maybe I can walk and chew today, but I can barely move my arms. Mestinon isn’t perfect.

Still, every time I watch that dog get up and move again, I smile. I’m reminded that even dogs end up at the University of Catastrophe, but they get back up and wag their tails nonetheless. Yes, I have MG. But, I also have the treatments I need to get back up and wag my tail. Medications that help are a sweet joy benchmark and reason enough to smile today.

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I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

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