Occasionally, autoimmune disorders can come in twos. This double trouble creates unique challenges. Myasthenia gravis co-existing with autoimmune thyroid disease occurs in only about 0.14–0.2% of cases. The patient is a 27-year-old man with a 2-month history of bilateral ptosis, diplopia, with episodes of easy fatigability, palpitations, and heat intolerance. On physical exam, the patient had an enlarged thyroid gland. Myasthenia gravis was established based on the presence of ptosis with weakness of the intraocular muscles, abnormal fatigability, and a repetitive nerve stimulation study indicated neuromuscular junction disease. Episodes of fluctuating right shoulder weakness were also noted. He was also found to have elevated FT3, FT4, and a suppressed TSH. Thyroid ultrasound revealed thyromegaly with diffused parenchymal disease. Thyroid scintigraphy showed increased uptake function at 72.4% uptake at 24 h. TRAb was positive at 4.1 U/L. Patient was started on pyridostigmine which led to a significant reduction in the frequency of ocular muscle weakness. Methimazole was also initiated. Radioactive iodine at 14.9 mci was instituted for the definitive management of hyperthyroidism. After RAI, there was abatement of the hyperthyroid symptoms, as well as improvement in the status of the myasthenia gravis, with ptosis, diplopia, and right arm weakness hardly occurring thereafter despite the reduction of the pyridostigmine dose based on a symptom diary and medication intake record. Two distinct autoimmune conditions displayed a markedly improved clinical course with the institution of radioactive iodine therapy for Graves’ disease.
The presence of ptosis, diplopia, and fluctuating muscle weakness are atypical in Graves’ disease and should prompt an investigation on the existence of concurrent myasthenia gravis. A prompt diagnosis of both conditions will enable the institution of appropriate management that would target both rare and challenging autoimmune diseases.
Selecting the therapeutic options with minimal risk of morbidity and mortality, which could lead to maximal benefit especially in a resource-limited setting is paramount.
Targeted non-surgical management can lead to the remission of two autoimmune diseases which can result in patient satisfaction and improved quality of life.