Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS)

Julie Long

Location

Pomfret Center, CT

Julie also is affected with myasthenia gravis. She began painting in 1997 as a form of therapy for the muscle diseases. Her other favorite hobbies include writing and cooking.

Full name: 
Julie Long
Artist: 
Julie Long
Disease: 
Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS)
Medium: 
Oil

Clinical Trials

About clinical trials

A clinical trial is a test in humans of an experimental medication or therapy. Clinical trials are experiments, not treatments, and participation requires careful consideration.

Although it's possible to benefit from participating in a clinical trial, it's also possible that no benefit — or even harm — may occur. Keep your MDA clinic doctor informed about any clinical trial participation. (Note that MDA has no ability to influence who is chosen to participate in a clinical trial.)

Research

Today, the focus of MDA-supported research in Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, as it is for other autoimmune (self-immune) diseases, is largely on regulating the immune response.

Several research groups are working on rebalancing the errant immune system, so that it returns to a state where it is able to attack invading microbes but not the body's own tissues. One especially promising avenue in this regard is increasing the activity or numbers of so-called regulatory T cells, which can dampen an overactive, or misdirected, immune response.

Medical Management

Long-term treatment and prognosis of LEMS depend on whether it occurs with or without cancer. Although cancer is life-threatening, it can be treated with radiation, surgery or chemotherapy. When these treatments are successful and the cancer goes into remission, LEMS usually goes into complete or partial remission as well.

Causes/Inheritance

Normally (A), the immune system releases antibodies to attack foreign invaders, such as bacteria. In autoimmune diseases (B), the antibodies mistakenly attack a person’s own tissues. In LEMS, they attack and damage muscle cells.

Diagnosis

In about 60 percent of cases, LEMS is associated with small-cell lung cancer (and more rarely with other types of cancer), which might be diagnosed at the same time as LEMS or years later.

Signs and Symptoms

The first symptoms of LEMS are usually leg weakness and difficulty walking. Oculobulbar weakness (affecting the muscles of the eyes, face and throat) may occur later, causing ptosis (droopy eyelids), speech impairment and swallowing problems.

Unlike weakness in myasthenia gravis, weakness in LEMS temporarily improves after exertion. For more on why this occurs, see Causes/Inheritance.

Overview

LEMS symptoms usually begin with leg weakness, often followed by weakness in the muscles of the eyes, face and throat. Sometimes the weakness temporarily improves after exertion.

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