Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome
What is Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome?
Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) is a disorder of the neuromuscular junction-the site where nerve cells meet muscle cells and help activate the muscles.
Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome is caused by a disruption of electrical impulses between these nerve and muscle cells. Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome is an autoimmune condition; in such disorders the immune system, which normally protects the body from foreign organisms, mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues. The disruption of electrical impulses is associated with antibodies produced as a consequence of this autoimmunity.
Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome and Cancer
Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome is closely associated with cancer, in particular small cell lung cancer. More than half the individuals diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome also develop small cell lung cancer. Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome may appear up to 3 years before cancer is diagnosed.
Symptoms of Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome
Symptoms of Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome develop slowly. The most common symptoms of Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome are:
Treatments for Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome
There is no cure for Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome. Treatment is directed at decreasing the autoimmune response (through the use of steroids, plasmapheresis, or high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin) or improving the transmission of the disrupted electrical impulses by giving drugs such as di-amino pyridine or pyridostigmine bromide (Mestinon).
For patients with small cell lung cancer, treatment of the cancer is the first priority.
Prognosis for Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome
The prognosis for individuals with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome varies. Those with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome not associated with malignancy have a benign overall prognosis. Generally the presence of cancer determines the prognosis.
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