Myasthenia Gravis: Make the Most of Your Energy

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 22, 2021
3 min read

Myasthenia gravis can be a confusing condition, with symptoms than can come and go without much warning. You may wake up and feel fine. A few hours later, you could be so weak it’s hard to walk, see clearly, or even smile. It’s important to learn ways to make the most of your limited energy.

Ideally, you’d be able to refill some of your energy stores. Some people can do that by getting midday rest. But not everyone has that option. You may be among the many people with myasthenia gravis who feel weaker and more fatigued as the day wears on.

If you’re new to myasthenia gravis, you may not realize just how many ways you can save energy throughout the day. Between tried-and-true devices, clever tools, and life hacks, you can make your waking hours a lot easier on your body:

  • Get a handicapped parking sticker or license plate to shorten walks from the car.
  • Don’t let pride keep you from using shopping scooters at the grocery store.
  • Put everything you need at home within easy reach.
  • Swap out manual appliances for electric ones: can openers, kitchen mixers, even toothbrushes.
  • Use lightweight dishes and silverware.
  • Buy smaller-sized bags of food, from bread flour to dog food.
  • If milk is heavy, consider a pump attachment so you don’t need to lift the jug.

Try to lower physical and emotional stress any way you can, since those things steal energy.

  • Don’t rush so you can get somewhere on time. What’s the worst that can happen if you’re late?
  • Ditch the guilt if you’re too tired to go out. It helps no one and could hurt you.
  • Feel like napping but have a pile of household chores to do? It’s time to start asking household members or others for help.
  • Learn ways to handle stress, like deep breathing techniques.

More than half of people with myasthenia gravis start out with eye problems. Double vision is a common concern, but an eye patch can help. Wear it to read, write, and watch TV. Be sure to switch eyes every so often so you don’t overuse one or the other.

Not everyone who has myasthenia gravis needs medical treatment. But if the symptoms, including weakness and fatigue, become truly bad, talk to your doctor about treatment options. These are just a few:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors. These help your nerves talk to with your muscles, which can make your muscles stronger and help them work more like they should.
  • Immunosuppressants. These drugs affect your immune system, which is the source of the disease. Don’t expect an overnight miracle; they can take months to work. Examples of immunosuppressants for myasthenia gravis include:
    • Azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
    • Cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
    • Methotrexate (Trexall)
    • Mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept)
    • Tacrolimus (Astrograf XL, Prograf)
  • Surgery. Your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the thymus gland. This is called a thymectomy. Some people with myasthenia gravis have a thymus gland tumor. But removing the thymus gland may improve symptoms over time even if you don’t have a thymus gland tumor.

About 15% of people with myasthenia gravis have problems with their face and throat muscles early on. You may look like you’re snarling when you don’t mean to. You might slur some words. More importantly, you could have trouble eating or drinking:

  • You might choke easily.
  • You may find it hard to swallow food or pills.
  • Liquids you mean to swallow could come out your nose.
  • You might lose the strength to chew halfway through a meal.

A registered dietitian can help you find easy-to-eat foods that give you energy all day.