Juvenile myasthenia gravis is important to recognize and diagnose, as proper treatment can have a significant impact on a child's life
Peter B. Kang, MD, pediatric neurologist
Juvenile myasthenia gravis (JMG) is the childhood form of myasthenia gravis (MG), and is an autoimmune disease in which a child’s body produces antibodies that attack the acetylcholine receptor and sometimes other proteins at the neuromuscular junction. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in muscle contractions. Not having enough receptor sites for acetylcholine causes a child’s muscles to weaken over time.
Here’s what you need to know about JMG:
- JMG should not be confused with congenital myasthenicsyndrome or neonatal myasthenia gravis. Congenital myasthenic syndrome is a similar but different disease of the neuromuscular junction that is genetic rather than autoimmune in origin. Neonatal myasthenia gravis is a transient (temporary) condition in infants born to mothers with symptomatic or subclinical myasthenia gravis. However, treatment is important because these infants may be quite ill for several weeks.
- In post-pubertal patients, females are more likely to have JMG than males. In pre-pubertal patients, JMG affects both genders equally.
- Although JMG can affect people of any age, the disease is relatively rare in children.
- JMG causes a child’s muscles, especially his eyes, mouth, throat and limbs, to weaken after periods of activity. The weakness usually subsides after a period of rest.
- Most children with JMG experience symptoms on and off, but the degree of muscle weakness can fluctuate in severity during the “on” times.
- In some cases, JMG may be a life threatening condition. However, most people with the disease improve over time if they receive effective treatment.
How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches JMG:
Since 1977, thousands of children have been successfully diagnosed and treated at the Neuromuscular Program where they are evaluated and treated by a team of world-renowned experts in child neurology, orthopedics and genetics.
The Department of Ophthalmology and the Ophthalmology Program at Children’s also uses both medical and surgical approaches to treat a wide range of eye conditions caused by neurological disorders such as myasthenia gravis. We use the most advanced diagnostic and treatment methods available and incorporate minimally invasive techniques whenever possible.
Our teams will work together with your family to develop treatment plans that meet your child's unique needs and provide him with the best possible quality of life.
Myasthenia gravis: Reviewed by Peter Kang, MD © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011