Who Treats Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the body attacks healthy cells. With MG, the body attacks areas where nerves communicate with muscles. This communication is what makes muscles work. Without the ability to communicate properly, the muscles become weak and tire easily.1-5
Myasthenia gravis is diagnosed using a combination of a health history, a physical exam, and a variety of tests. While myasthenia gravis is the most common disorder of nerve-muscle transmission, it is still a rare condition. Having a rare condition with subtle and changing symptoms like MG can make it hard to get an accurate diagnosis.
Since symptoms often come and go, and change from one attack to the next, it can be hard to know which type of doctor to see first. The type of doctors who treat someone with MG include:
Neurologist or neuromuscular specialist
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the nervous system like MG. Within the field of neurology, a neuromuscular specialist diagnoses and cares for diseases that affect the function of nerves and muscles. These doctors most often diagnose MG correctly, as well as treat and manage MG patients.
An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in treating the eyes. A neuro-ophthalmologist is a specialist that cares for diseases that affect the function of the nerves and muscles of the eye. MG attacks the muscles of the eyes and eyelids first in more than half of people with MG. This causes drooping of the eyelids or double vision. An ophthalmologist is often the first doctor a person with MG sees when symptoms begin.2
A rheumatologist specializes in treating autoimmune conditions like myasthenia gravis. This doctor may work with a neurologist to help find the right combination of treatments for a person with MG. Having a rheumatologist is especially important for people that have more than 1 autoimmune disorder.
A thoracic surgeon specializes in surgeries of the chest. This is the type of surgeon who will remove the thymus gland. This surgery is known as a thymectomy.
Physical and occupational therapists
Physical and occupational therapists help people improve their strength, dexterity, mobility, balance, and endurance. These therapists have many tools and will create a personalized program for each patient. They can also recommend safe exercises and how to use assistive devices such as canes.
A speech therapist helps people who have problems speaking and swallowing, which is common in MG. A speech therapist will have exercises and techniques to help with these common symptoms.
A dietitian or nutritionist can help plan healthy meals that are easier to swallow.
Maternal-fetal medicine specialist
If a woman has MG and wants to become pregnant, her regular obstetrician may recommend that she see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. These are OB/GYNs who specialize in caring for women with high-risk pregnancies. MG can get worse during pregnancy and the first weeks after delivery.3
Children and teens with MG may be seen by a neurologist who specializes in caring for young people.
Myasthenia gravis is often called a snowflake disease because every person’s symptoms and experience are so different. This can make it hard to find the right diagnosis and treatment. It also means people living with MG often see a variety of specialists to help them manage their symptoms. The combination of doctors each person needs will be as individual as they are.