Immune System

Immune System

Immune System
Immune and lymphatic system health is necessary for protecting your body from germs and diseases. Known as the body's first line of defense, your immune system and lymphatic system help protect you from bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause disease. Your lymphatic system produces and carries white blood cells containing antibodies that fight off infection. Your lymphatic system transports and destroys dead or damaged cells and cancer cells, removing these substances from the blood stream. Problems with your immune and lymphatic system can result in various diseases. A weakened immune system can lead to diseases including cancer, the flu and chronic fatigue syndrome. An overactive immune system can lead to diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), Huntingdon's disease and lupus. Allergies occur when your immune system mistakes harmless substances for threats and attacks these harmless substances.

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    General: Complications of lymphedema include skin infections, extreme swelling (elephantiasis), and cancer of the lymph vessels. Many of the complications may be prevented by vigilant skin care and hygiene.

    Depression: It may not be possible or comfortable to perform normal tasks using the affected arm or leg. This may lead to frustration and depression.

    Elephantiasis: Elephantiasis occurs when the affected arm or leg becomes so hardened with thickened skin that is difficult to move it. The skin on the affected arm or leg may be affected by persistent ulcers and repeated infections.

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    Lymphedema can vary greatly in severity and is classified as subclinical, mild, moderate or severe. Most cases are subclinical, meaning that symptoms are so mild that people are unaware it is occurring. Mild or moderate cases might involve minor swelling of the arm, hand or even a single finger. The more severe it becomes, however, the more debilitating lymphedema can be. Swelling can become severe, people may lose motion in the limb, and the pressure of the extra fluid can cause chronic skin damage, leading to serious infections such as lymphangitis and cellulitis.
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    If you have myasthenia gravis, the muscles that you use for chewing may become fatigued very easily. To prevent this, you may want to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Avoiding sticky and hard foods and replacing them with foods that are easier to chew may also be helpful.

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    General: Currently, there is no known method of preventing myasthenia gravis. However, people who develop the disorder can take steps to prevent complications or exacerbations of their conditions.

    Avoiding extreme heat: Patients are encouraged to avoid extreme heat because it may worsen symptoms. Cold temperatures do not appear to have this effect.

    Discussing medications with physician: Patients are encouraged to tell their doctors if they are taking any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter), herbs, or supplements. This is because some medications (e.g., quinine, aminoglycoside antibiotics, phenothiazines, methoxyflurane, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers) may worsen symptoms of the disorder.

    Proper rest and sleep: Patients are encouraged to get plenty of rest because fatigue may worsen symptoms.

    Stress management: People are encouraged to manage stress because stress has been shown to worsen symptoms of myasthenia gravis. People may benefit from time management classes or relaxation or meditative therapies.

    Preventing falls: Patients with myasthenia gravis have an increased risk of falling due to muscle weakness. This risk can be reduced by installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. A non-slip bath mat can be used in the shower or tub. Proper lighting is also recommended inside the home. Handrails and lights should be installed on the staircases of the home. Consider installing a ramp into the home if there are steps to the front door. Wear rubber-soled slippers that do not slip when walking around the home.

    Health support: Patients are encouraged to take steps to prevent infections because symptoms may worsen when a patient is sick. Also, some medications used to treat myasthenia gravis, including immunosuppressants, may weaken the body's immune response, making the patient more susceptible to infections. Limiting contact with others who are sick, frequently washing the hands with soap and warm water, and eating a healthy diet are just some of the ways people can reduce their risks of becoming sick.

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    General: Swelling in an arm or leg may indicate lymphedema. A healthcare provider may check to be sure that the swelling is not due to other causes, such as a blood clot or an infection that does not involve lymph nodes. Arm or leg swelling in patients that have recently had cancer and/or surgery involving the lymph nodes usually indicates lymphedema. Following a physical exam, imaging tests may be used to determine the cause of swelling. During the physical exam, the healthcare provider will ask about a family history of swelling and any past illnesses and medications taken. The swollen arm or leg may be measured and compared to the other arm or leg.

    Computerized tomography (CT): A CT scan produces images of the arm or leg in cross-sections and may show the areas of the lymphatic system that are blocked.

    Doppler ultrasound: A Doppler ultrasound assesses blood flow and pressure by bouncing high-frequency sound waves off of red blood cells.

    Lymphangiography: A lymphangiogram is an X-ray of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels where a dye or radioactive compound is injected into the body to enable viewing of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels, which are not usually seen on a normal X-ray.

    Lymphoscintigraphy: In a lymphoscintigraphy, a radioactive dye is injected and then scanned by a machine. A healthcare provider may then watch the dye moving through the lymph vessels and check for blockages.

    Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI scan images the tissues in the affected arm or leg to check for lymph accumulation.

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    The development of lymphedema can be detected using a testing method called bioimpedance spectroscopy, which measures extracellular fluid in the limbs by passing low-dose electric current through the limb, to detect the way the body responds to fluid changes. The test is painless, fast (five minutes), noninvasive and portable.
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    There are several tests that taken together are almost certain for myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that leads to fluctuating muscle weakness and fatigue). Sometimes, the tests must be repeated several times, and even then, a very small number of cases remain uncertain. Most neuromuscular clinics can perform these tests -- some are blood tests, others related to electromyogram (EMG), and it can be useful to inject a drug called neostigmine, which improves myasthenia symptoms. There are several diseases that can imitate myasthenia, so a careful examination is required.
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    A , Family Medicine, answered

    Unfortunately, a delay of one or two years in diagnosis is not unusual in cases of myasthenia gravis. Because weakness is a common symptom of many other disorders, the diagnosis is often missed in people who experience mild weakness or in those individuals whose weakness is restricted to only a few muscles.

    The first steps in diagnosing myasthenia gravis include a review of the individual's medical history and physical and neurological examinations. The signs a physician must look for are impairment of eye movements or muscle weakness without any changes in the individual's ability to feel things. If the physician suspects myasthenia gravis, several tests are available to confirm the diagnosis.

    A special blood test can detect the presence of immune molecules or acetylcholine receptor antibodies. Most patients with myasthenia gravis have abnormally elevated levels of these antibodies. However, antibodies may not be detected in patients with only ocular forms of the disease.

    Another test is called the edrophonium test. This approach requires the intravenous administration of edrophonium chloride, or Tensilon (r), a drug that blocks the degradation of acetylcholine and temporarily increases the levels of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction. In people with myasthenia gravis involving the eye muscles, edrophonium chloride will briefly relieve weakness. Other methods of confirming the diagnosis include a version of nerve conduction study that tests for specific muscle fatigue by repetitive nerve stimulation. This test records weakening muscle responses when nerves are repetitively stimulated. Repetitive stimulation of a nerve during a nerve conduction study may demonstrate decrements of the muscle action potential due to impaired nerve-to-muscle transmission.

    A different test called single-fiber electromyography (EMG), in which single muscle fibers are stimulated by electrical impulses, can also detect impaired nerve-to-muscle transmission. Computed tomography may be used to identify an abnormal thymus gland or the presence of a thymoma.

    A special examination called pulmonary function testing, which measures breathing strength helps to predict whether respiration may fail and lead to a myasthenic crisis.

    This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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    Myasthenic crisis: In rare cases, the respiratory muscles may fail, causing a condition called myasthenic crisis. This condition causes sudden difficulty breathing and requires emergency medical treatment. Some patients may need intensive care and the use of a ventilator. Some factors that may cause myasthenic crisis include stress, infection, fever, or some medications.

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      In myasthenia gravis, a disruption in the communication between your nerves and muscles makes your muscles feel weak. For some, the weakness is localized to a specific muscle group. For others, the weakness is more general and can affect several muscle groups. Your weakness will become worse after periods of activity and improve after rest.