What Does It Mean to Be a Rare Disease?

Last updated: February 2023

Chances are, you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a rare disease and that is why you are reading this now. You are not alone if you are not fully aware of what a rare disease is, who it impacts, and how it is treated.

Understanding what a rare disease is, why myasthenia gravis (MG) is considered one, and what support resources are available to those affected by MG can help you or your loved one find relief.

What is a rare disease?

A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. In the past, rare diseases did not have treatment development because drug companies were less likely to fund research and development. Laws have since been passed to encourage drug companies to develop treatments for rare diseases.1

There are an estimated 7,000 rare diseases in the world. Because most rare diseases are not tracked, the exact number of rare diseases is not fully known.1

What treatments are being developed for rare diseases?

Although research, development, and funding for rare diseases have increased significantly over the years, many rare diseases do not have treatment.

National and state organizations have been formed to help in the treatment research, development, and funding of rare diseases.

Is MG a rare disease?

Myasthenia gravis is classified as a rare disease. The exact number of people with MG is unknown, but experts estimate it to be 36,000 to 60,000 people in the United States. Because MG is underdiagnosed, this number is likely much higher.2

What role does research play in rare diseases?

Studies and research are instrumental in the evolution of treatment and disease management for rare diseases. Because of the difficulties in diagnosis, research and development may be much slower for rare diseases such as MG.

Participation in clinical trials may be a good opportunity to take part in advancing the treatment and management of MG. Talk to your doctor about your interest in clinical trial participation. There might be a clinical trial that not only helps you but could also advance the treatment of MG for others.

What advocacy opportunities are there for MG?

Advocacy for rare diseases like MG is important for continued research, development, and treatment of the disease. Advocacy for MG may include:3,4

  • Participation in Rare Disease Week: This free, week-long event held in Washington, D.C., brings together more than 500 disease advocates who learn how to lobby Congress. Advocates gain valuable information about how to help develop and change laws related to rare diseases.
  • Supporting and joining advocacy groups: These can help you connect with others who are affected by MG as well as provide valuable information and education about the disease. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) is a good place to start and learn more about rare disease advocacy.

Remember, having a rare disease such as MG may feel isolating, but you are not alone. Find your voice and the support you need by looking into advocacy, support groups, and clinical research. Rare disease treatments and advancements rely on the advocacy and determination of those like you.

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