How LEMS Differs From Myasthenia Gravis

How LEMS Differs From Myasthenia Gravis

For patients with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) or myasthenia gravis, getting a diagnosis can be challenging. The symptoms of both autoimmune diseases are similar, so blood tests for specific antibodies may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.

What is myasthenia gravis?

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies against components of the neuromuscular junction — the junction between nerve cells and muscles. These autoantibodies damage the connections, causing progressive muscle weakness.

In order to send nerve signals to muscles, the nerve depolarizes — shuttling ions inside and out of the cell to change its overall electrical charge and send an electrical signal down the nerve. At the neuromuscular junction, the electrical charge tells the end of the nerve to release a chemical called acetylcholine, which binds to the acetylcholine receptor situated on the other side of the junction and signals the muscle to contract through a series of chemical reactions which are propagated by a receptor-associated protein called muscle-specific tyrosine kinase (MuSK).

Myasthenia gravis develops as a result of the body producing antibodies against either MuSK or the acetylcholine receptor.

What is LEMS?

LEMS is an autoimmune disease in which the body produces autoantibodies against a calcium channel in the nerve cells which controls the release of acetylcholine.

Without the calcium channels, the nerve cells cannot release enough acetylcholine, which causes muscle weakness.

Other disease differences

About 3% to 8% of myasthenia gravis patients develop a thyroid condition, which they should be tested for as soon as their doctor suspects myasthenia gravis.

About 50% to 60% of LEMS patients have small-cell lung cancer, which should be tested for as soon as LEMS is suspected.

Treatment differences

No cure is available for either disease, but treatments can help manage symptoms.

For LEMS patients, chemotherapy for small-cell lung cancer (if present) comes ahead of treating muscle weakness.

For both LEMS and myasthenia gravis, the treatments are targeted at suppressing the immune response (to reduce autoantibody production) and increase acetylcholine production to create a stronger muscle response to nerve signals.

 

Last updated: Oct. 20, 2019

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Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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