Myasthenia Gravis vs. MS: Similarities and Differences – Healthline

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition of the neuromuscular system that’s characterized by impaired communication between the nerves and muscles. This condition leads to weakness in the skeletal muscles.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological condition that’s characterized by progressive nerve damage. The condition leads to decreased central nervous system communication and neurological symptoms.
While myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis share some similarities in the way they present, they are separate diseases with different causes, symptoms, treatments, and more.
In this article, we take a look at the similarities and differences between myasthenia gravis and MS.
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disorder. This is a disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body.
In people with myasthenia gravis, the immune system attacks the neuromuscular junction, which is responsible for sending signals from the nerves to the muscle fibers. When this junction is damaged, it prevents the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from being able to transmit these signals, and the muscles can no longer contract properly.
MS is an immune-mediated condition with autoimmune features which, like myasthenia gravis, is caused by the body attacking itself.
In people with MS, the immune system attacks the central nervous system, including the:
When these nerves become damaged, they’re no longer able to effectively send or receive signals from the rest of the body, resulting in a variety of neurological symptoms.
Myasthenia gravis primarily causes muscle weakness that is often made worse by periods of exertion or activity. Sometimes, these symptoms can appear without warning and may be confused for other neurological conditions.
Symptoms of myasthenia gravis can vary from person to person and may include:
In severe cases, weakness of the respiratory muscles can lead to complications such as respiratory failure.
Multiple sclerosis primarily causes neurological symptoms that can range in severity based on whether a person is in relapse or remission. Most of these differences depend on which stage of MS the person is in.
More common symptoms of MS include:
Other uncommon symptoms of MS may also include:
Myasthenia gravis is prevalent across all racial and ethnic groups, with males and females being affected equally. However, most cases of myasthenia gravis are diagnosed in people assigned female at birth over age 40 years and people assigned male at birth over age 60. Myasthenia gravis is rarely diagnosed in infants.
Multiple sclerosis also affects people of all races and ethnicities. However, it is most common in people who are white and of European descent.
Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, but children, teenagers, and older adults can also be diagnosed with the condition. MS is 3 times as common in females as it is in males.
Myasthenia gravis is often misdiagnosed as a different neurological condition with similar symptoms, such as MS or ALS. With this in mind, the following tests may be used to determine if symptoms are due to myasthenia gravis or another condition:
Multiple sclerosis is also a difficult disorder to diagnose because there’s no specific test for the condition. Instead, it is more likely to be diagnosed after other conditions have been ruled out using tests such as:
Although there’s no cure for myasthenia gravis, treatment can help manage the long-term symptoms. Treatment options for this condition include:
Like myasthenia gravis, there’s no current cure for MS, but certain medications and other treatment options can help improve symptoms and reduce relapses. Treatment options for this condition include:
Myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis are both immune-mediated conditions that can cause a wide range of neurological symptoms. While the two conditions may seem similar, there are notable differences that distinguish them from one another.
Myasthenia gravis involves the neuromuscular junction, primarily affects the skeletal muscles, and is treated using medications and other procedures to help reduce immune system activation. MS involves the central nervous system, can affect the entire body, and is primarily treated using medications and lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and relapses.
If you’ve been diagnosed with either of these conditions, receiving the proper diagnosis and getting the right treatment can help improve your overall quality of life.
Last medically reviewed on October 28, 2021