Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) is a rare autoimmune disorder in which the body produces antibodies that mistakenly attack calcium channels found in nerve cell endings. This affects muscle contraction by disrupting the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter or cell signaling molecule at the neuromuscular junction, which is the point where nerve cells connect to muscles. Resulting symptoms include muscle weakness, among others, that can severely affect patients’ daily activities.

Occupational therapy involves helping patients gain independence in performing daily activities at home, work, school, leisure times, and social events. Occupational therapists can also educate family members and caretakers about how they can help the patient with daily tasks.

How does LEMS affect the body and daily activities?

LEMS is characterized by muscle weakness, autonomic disturbances, depressed tendon reflexes, fatigue, and pain. Patients may have vision problems, including droopy eyelids (ptosis) caused by weakened eye muscles. These symptoms affect many activities such as basic self-care, reading, driving, everyday household activities, and parenting.

The disease can also disrupt the professional lives of patients with occupations that require extensive reading, computer tasks, home repair, driving, and other skills. The stress related to the chronic nature of the disease may result in patients developing anxiety and depression.

How can occupational therapy help LEMS patients?

The role of an occupational therapist (OT) is to evaluate the functional difficulties and daily requirements of their patients and devise strategies that can help them carry out daily activities more independently.

Self-care activities

An occupational therapist can address deficits in the patient’s daily self-care activities and in-home management tasks, and suggest ways to achieve those tasks more independently. These suggestions include durable medical equipment for the bathroom to help the patient shower and groom while seated; alternate ways of organizing home supplies, furniture, clothing, groceries, utensils, and other kitchenware to make them easily accessible; and lightweight cleaning equipment rather than heavy vacuum cleaners or mops.

The therapist can also teach patients how to conserve energy and modify daily tasks to overcome fatigue.

Health management

The OT can teach techniques to help patients effectively manage their health, such as ways to self-administer medication when dealing with hand weakness, and setting up a calendar and reminders to carry out each task, including taking medications in a timely manner.

Physical and psychosocial health

An occupational therapist can help a patient develop coping strategies, habits, routines, and lifestyle adaptations to support their physical and psychosocial health. This may include suggesting:

  • adaptive devices and apps for iPads, Android phones, or iPhones.
  • alternative foods that are easier to swallow.
  • alternative sitting and eating positions.
  • less strenuous activities.

 

Last updated: Sept. 21, 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 health provider 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.

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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.