Autoimmune Myasthenia Gravis: Recommendations for Treatment and Immunologic Modulation.
Treatment for myasthenia gravis should be individualized to each patient based on the clinical characteristics of myasthenia including the distribution, duration, and severity of weakness and resulting functional impairment; the risks for treatment complications related to age, gender, and medical comorbidities; and the presence of thymoma. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors provide temporary, symptomatic treatment for all forms of myasthenia gravis. Immune modulators address the underlying autoimmune process in myasthenia gravis, but are associated with potential complications and side effects. Most patients with generalized myasthenia who have significant weakness beyond the ocular muscles and who remain symptomatic, despite treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors, are candidates for immune modulation. Although corticosteroids are effective for long-term immune modulation in myasthenia gravis, several more contemporary immunomodulators including azathioprine, cyclosporine, and mycophenolate mofetil have shown efficacy in myasthenia gravis and are used increasingly as first-line treatments and as steroid-sparing agents. Plasma exchange is used to achieve rapid improvement in patients with myasthenic crisis or exacerbation, to improve strength before a surgical procedure or thymectomy, and to minimize steroid-induced exacerbation in patients with oropharyngeal or respiratory muscle weakness. Intravenous immunoglobulin represents an alternative to plasma exchange in patients requiring relatively rapid short-term improvement in the setting of poor venous access. Because of a lack of controlled trials, the role of thymectomy in nonthymomatous myasthenia gravis is unclear, although evidence suggests that thymectomy increases the probability for myasthenic remission or improvement.
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