Differentiating Myasthenia gravis from other diseases

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Differential diagnosis for Myasthenia gravis includes: adult Botulism, infant Botulism, guillian-Barre syndrome, eaton lambert syndrome, electrolyte disturbance, organophosphate poisoning, tick paralysis, tetrodotoxin poisoning, stroke, poliomyelitis, transverse myelitis, neurosyphilis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosisand myositis.

Differentiating Myasthenia Gravis from other Diseases

Myasthenia gravis should be differentiated from other causes of muscle weakness, hypotonia and flaccid paralysis. The differentials include the following:[1][1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

Diseases History and Physical Diagnostic tests Other Findings
Motor Deficit Sensory deficit Cranial nerve Involvement Autonomic dysfunction Proximal/Distal/Generalized Ascending/Descending/Systemic Unilateral (UL)

or Bilateral (BL)

or

No Lateralization (NL)

Onset Lab or Imaging Findings Specific test
Acute Flaccid Myelitis + + + - Proximal > Distal Ascending UL/BL Sudden MRI (Longitudinal hyperintense lesions) MRI and CSF PCR for viral etiology Drooping eyelids

Difficulty swallowing

Respiratory failure

Adult Botulism + - + + Generalized Descending BL Sudden Toxin test Blood, Wound, or Stool culture Diplopia, Hyporeflexia, Hypotonia, possible respiratory paralysis
Infant Botulism + - + + Generalized Descending BL Sudden Toxin test Blood, Wound, or Stool culture Flaccid paralysis (Floppy baby syndrome), possible respiratory paralysis
Guillian-Barre syndrome + - - - Generalized Ascending BL Insidious CSF: ↑Protein

↓Cells

Clinical & Lumbar Puncture Progressive ascending paralysis following infection, possible respiratory paralysis
Eaton Lambert syndrome + - + + Generalized Systemic BL Intermittent EMG, repetitive nerve stimulation test (RNS) Voltage gated calcium channel (VGCC) antibody Diplopia, ptosis, improves with movement (as the day progresses)
Myasthenia gravis + - + + Generalized Systemic BL Intermittent EMG, Edrophonium test Ach receptor antibody Diplopia, ptosis, worsening with movement (as the day progresses)
Electrolyte disturbance + + - - Generalized Systemic BL Insidious Electrolyte panel ↓Ca++, ↓Mg++, ↓K+ Possible arrhythmia
Organophosphate toxicity + + - + Generalized Ascending BL Sudden Clinical diagnosis: physical exam & history Clinical suspicion confirmed with RBC AchE activity History of exposure to insecticide or living in farming environment. with : Diarrhea, Urination, Miosis, Bradycardia, Lacrimation, Emesis, Salivation, Sweating
Tick paralysis (Dermacentor tick) + - - - Generalized Ascending BL Insidious Clinical diagnosis: physical exam & history - History of outdoor activity in Northeastern United States. The tick is often still latched to the patient at presentation (often in head and neck area)
Tetrodotoxin poisoning + - + + Generalized Systemic BL Sudden Clinical diagnosis: physical exam & dietary history - History of consumption of puffer fish species.
Stroke +/- +/- +/- +/- Generalized Systemic UL Sudden MRI +ve for ischemia or hemorrhage MRI Sudden unilateral motor and sensory deficit in a patient with a history of atherosclerotic risk factors (diabetes, hypertension, smoking) or atrial fibrillation.
Poliomyelitis + + + +/- Proximal > Distal Systemic BL or UL Sudden PCR of CSF Asymmetric paralysis following a flu-like syndrome.
Transverse myelitis + + + + Proximal > Distal Systemic BL or UL Sudden MRI & Lumbar puncture MRI History of chronic viral or autoimmune disease (e.g. HIV)
Neurosyphilis + + - +/- Generalized Systemic BL Insidious MRI & Lumbar puncture CSF VDRL-specifc

CSF FTA-Ab -sensitive

History of unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners.

History of genital ulcer (chancre), diffuse maculopapular rash.

Muscular dystrophy + - - - Proximal > Distal Systemic BL Insidious Genetic testing Muscle biopsy Progressive proximal lower limb weakness with calf pseudohypertrophy in early childhood. Gower sign positive.
Multiple sclerosis exacerbation + + + + Generalized Systemic NL Sudden CSF IgG levels

(monoclonal)

Clinical assessment and MRI Blurry vision, urinary incontinence, fatigue
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis + - - - Generalized Systemic BL Insidious Normal LP (to rule out DDx) MRI & LP Patient initially presents with upper motor neuron deficit (spasticity) followed by lower motor neuron deficit (flaccidity).
Inflammatory myopathy + - - - Proximal > Distal Systemic UL or BL Insidious Elevated CK & Aldolase Muscle biopsy Progressive proximal muscle weakness in 3rd to 5th decade of life. With or without skin manifestations.

References

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  6. Chen IJ, Hu SC, Hung KL, Lo CW (September 2018). "Acute flaccid myelitis associated with enterovirus D68 infection: A case report". Medicine (Baltimore). 97 (36): e11831. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011831. PMC 6133480. PMID 30200066.
  7. "Botulism | Botulism | CDC".
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  14. Krishnan C, Kaplin AI, Deshpande DM, Pardo CA, Kerr DA (May 2004). "Transverse Myelitis: pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment". Front. Biosci. 9: 1483–99. PMID 14977560.
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