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NINDS Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome Information Page


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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. It is caused by a disruption of electrical impulses between these nerve and muscle cells. LEMS 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. Symptoms include muscle weakness, a tingling sensation in the affected areas, fatigue, and dry mouth. LEMS is closely associated with cancer, in particular small cell lung cancer. More than half the individuals diagnosed with LEMS also develop small cell lung cancer. LEMS may appear up to 3 years before cancer is diagnosed.

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for LEMS. 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.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for individuals with LEMS varies. Those with LEMS not associated with malignancy have a benign overall prognosis. Generally the presence of cancer determines the prognosis.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports research on neuromuscular disorders such as LEMS with the ultimate goal of finding ways to treat, prevent, and cure them.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome Clinical Trials

Organizations

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American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
22100 Gratiot Avenue
Eastpointe, MI   48021-2227
aarda@aarda.org
http://www.aarda.org
Tel: 586-776-3900 800-598-4668
Fax: 586-776-3903

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ   85718-3208
mda@mdausa.org
http://www.mda.org
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

 


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated February 13, 2007