Myasthenia Gravis: Background information when reading The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

by Sarah Ramey

The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey X
The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2021, 432 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Myasthenia Gravis

This article relates to The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

Print Review

Patient with myasthenia gravis In her memoir The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness, Sarah Ramey mentions a litany of so-called mysterious illnesses, some of which are widely known—lupus, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis—and others that may be less familiar to readers. I was surprised to see her mention a relatively unknown condition that happens to affect someone in my family, who was lucky enough to reach a diagnosis and an effective plan for treatment and management, but not without doing a fair amount of the kinds of research and self-advocacy about which Ramey writes. The illness is myasthenia gravis, a disease that affects approximately between 50 and 200 out of every million people.

Myasthenia gravis, or MG, gets its name from the Greek words "mys" (muscle) and "asthenia" (weakness) along with the Latin "gravis" (serious). As the word origins suggest, the condition is characterized by muscle weakness, typically affecting the muscles of the face (especially those around the eyes and mouth) but also, in some cases, affecting the ability to move or walk.

The chronic disease disproportionately affects younger women and older men. Most often, the muscle weakness begins with relatively mild symptoms—droopy eyelids and difficulty talking or swallowing—which worsen after periods of physical activity and improve after rest or sleep. In rare cases, however, the muscle fatigue can develop suddenly and severely, affecting the muscles that allow for respiration and resulting in a so-called myasthenic crisis, requiring the use of a ventilator.

Like many of the other conditions Ramey touches on, MG is an autoimmune disease, in which the body develops antibodies that disrupt the pathways between neurotransmitters and receptors, preventing muscles from contracting. In many cases, there seems to be a link between an overactive thymus gland and the development of the antibodies that trigger MG.

Although MG is not directly hereditary, it may appear more often in families where individuals have other autoimmune disorders. Mothers with MG can transfer their antibodies to their fetuses, resulting in symptoms of MG in the newborns, though the effects are usually temporary. As a result, women with MG who become pregnant usually require additional monitoring, as might their newborn babies.

There is no real cure for MG, though for most patients, the disease can be adequately managed through a combination of medicine, intravenous therapy for flareups and, in some cases, surgery to remove the thymus. As Ramey suggests in her illness memoir, patients with MG can access a variety of online and in-person support groups to help with sharing information and providing emotional support, making this chronic condition seem less frightening and more manageable.

Patient with myasthenia gravis from an article by physicians William Campbell Posey and William Spiller (1904)

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

Article by Norah Piehl

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness. It originally ran in April 2020 and has been updated for the May 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Girl in His Shadow
    The Girl in His Shadow
    by Audrey Blake
    The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a fast-paced historical novel set in Victorian-era England...
  • Book Jacket: Whereabouts
    Whereabouts
    by Jhumpa Lahiri
    Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts has seen numerous comparisons to Second Place by Rachel Cusk. These two ...
  • Book Jacket: Swimming Back to Trout River
    Swimming Back to Trout River
    by Linda Rui Feng
    Linda Rui Feng's first novel, Swimming Back to Trout River, is a powerful meditation on the ties ...
  • Book Jacket: The Unfit Heiress
    The Unfit Heiress
    by Audrey Farley
    During the American eugenics movement (see Beyond the Book), involuntary sterilization was used to ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Ariadne
by Jennifer Saint
A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Who Said...

In war there are no unwounded soldiers

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

H I T Best P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.