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Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. To help diagnose myasthenia gravis, your doctor may order blood tests to detect antibodies that may be affecting the function of acetylcholine receptors.

An anticholinesterase test may also be done, especially when antibody tests are negative. With this test, small amounts of edrophonium* (a medication usually used to control symptoms) is injected. If there are no problems, more is injected. In people with myasthenia gravis, this will produce a sudden major improvement in muscle strength and control, lasting about 5 minutes.

The test is also valuable in people with diagnosed myasthenia because it distinguishes symptoms due to the disease from similar symptoms that are sometimes caused by the medications. The medications given for myasthenia gravis can trigger a cholinergic crisis, which is characterized by increasing muscle weakness. Edrophonium will relieve symptoms of myasthenic crisis, but may temporarily worsen a cholinergic crisis.

Another important diagnostic test is called electromyography (EMG) and single-fibre EMG. These tests are used to determine whether the nerve-to-muscle contact is working properly.

A chest X-ray or CAT scan of the chest may be done to look for a thymoma. Breathing tests called pulmonary function tests may also be done.


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