NYU Langone doctors may prescribe medication to improve muscle contraction and muscle strength for people with myasthenia gravis. A type of medication called a cholinesterase inhibitor can do that by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, an important chemical in the communication between nerves and muscles. Cholinesterase inhibitors may take a few days to provide relief and are typically used on a long-term basis.
Medication to reduce inflammation at the neuromuscular junction may also be a part of a treatment plan for myasthenia gravis. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone to help control inflammation. These may produce potentially serious side effects including osteoporosis (weakening of bones), weight gain, or high blood pressure, which can be managed with other medications.
To stop the autoimmune attack that is causing muscle weakness, your doctor may also prescribe immune-suppressing medications. These improve muscle strength by stopping the production of abnormal antibodies that mistakenly attack the connection between nerves and muscles. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system that attack foreign matter, such as bacteria or viruses. In people with myasthenia gravis, certain antibodies prevent nerve cells from communicating with the muscles they control.
Most people with myasthenia gravis take immunosuppressants in combination with cholinesterase inhibitors and corticosteroids for a period of three to six months. The length of time depends on how quickly symptoms subside and on when your doctor determines the condition is in remission, which is when the signs and symptoms of myasthenia gravis have disappeared.