Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disorder, characterized by the formation of antibodies against the acetylcholine receptors (Ach-R) situated in the neuromuscular junction. The anti-AchR antibodies block the signals from the nerves to the muscles which is manifested by muscle weakness that worsens at the end of the day. The weakness of the eye muscles causes double vision and drooping, the involvement of the facial muscles is represented by difficulty to hold the head straight and the mouth closed. Problems with chewing and swallowing as well as voice changes may be the first symptoms. Other muscle groups are less commonly affected, but the involvement of the diaphragms during myasthenic crisis is potentially life-threatening.
The role of Chinese medicine
Conventional medications such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and corticosteroids are used in the management of Myasthenia gravis. In addition various researches have demonstrated improved treatment results if standard drugs are being combined with acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine herbs.
The beneficial results from both these alternative medicine methods are due to:
1. Increase of the acetylcholine receptors in the neuromuscular junction, along with reduction of the antibodies against the Ach-R, leading to a better transmission of the nerve signals and decreased muscle weakness
- Regulation of the immune system- acupuncture is proved to regulate the secretion of various pro inflammatory substances such as Interleukin-4 (IL-4) as well as Il-12, IL-18. In that way acupuncture suppresses the abnormal immune response, seen in Myasthenia gravis.
Acupuncture along with the application of different Chinese medicine herb mixtures alleviates the symptoms and prevents relapses. One of their greatest advantages is that there are no side effects associated, which is not the case with conventional therapy.
The simultaneous use of medications, acupuncture and Chinese herb mixtures is scientifically proven to be effective and more beneficial for patients suffering from Myasthenia gravis, compared to drug therapy alone. Considering the low cost and the lack of side effects, these alternative treatment possibilities must be included in the management of the condition, in order to improve the patient’s outcome.
- Huang H, Pan H, Wang HF, Warming yang and invigorating qi” acupuncture alters acetylcholine receptor expression in the neuromuscular junction of rats with experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis, Neural Regen Res. 2016 Mar; 11(3): 465–468. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.179060
- Qi G, Gu Sh, Liu P, Effects of combined traditional Chinese medicine with immunosuppressive agents for patients with myasthenia gravis, Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015; 8(10): 19044–19050.
- Qi GY, Liu P, Gao BL, Shenqi Fuzheng Injection Alleviates the Transient Worsening Caused by Steroids Pulse Therapy in Treating Myasthenia Gravis, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2013 (2013)
- Wang JK, Zhang XF, Yang MS, A Prospective Study of Tablet Fuzhengqiangjin Therapy in Patients with Myasthenia Gravis, Chinese Journal of Neuroimmunology and Neurology, 2007-02