|Type of medicine
Myasthenia gravis is a condition where your muscles become easily tired and weak. Your muscles are not being stimulated by your nerves properly, and so are not contracting well. Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the fault is due to a problem with your immune system, which is mistakenly attacking itself.
Your brain normally sends messages down your nerves to the muscles it wants to contract. Your nerve endings then release a chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine quickly attaches to small areas on your muscles called receptors, and this triggers your muscles to contract. In most people with myasthenia gravis, the immune system blocks or destroys acetylcholine receptors, which results in your muscles being less able to contract.
Pyridostigmine works by delaying the breakdown of acetylcholine when it is released from nerve endings. This means that there is more acetylcholine available for the muscle receptors, which improves the strength of your muscles.
Before taking pyridostigmine
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking pyridostigmine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have asthma.
- If you have epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, an overactive thyroid, or low blood pressure.
- If you have heart problems, such as a slow heart rate, or if you have recently had a heart attack.
- If you have a stomach ulcer.
- If you have kidney problems.
- If you have been told you have a blockage in your intestines or urinary system.
- If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medicine.
How to take pyridostigmine
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about pyridostigmine, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
- Take pyridostigmine tablets exactly as your doctor has told you. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack. It is usual to take ½ to 2 tablets several times a day. The tablets take 30-60 minutes to start working, and their effect will last for about 4-6 hours. Take the tablets at suitable intervals so that your muscles are strongest when you need to be the most active.
- It is likely that you will be prescribed other medicines to take alongside pyridostigmine. You may be prescribed an immunosuppressant or corticosteroid medicine to help control your symptoms. You may also be prescribed tablets to reduce some unwanted effects from taking pyridostigmine. If you are unsure when or how to take all of these medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain it to you again.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
- If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking pyridostigmine. This is important because pyridostigmine may interfere with medicines used during an anaesthetic.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines.
Can pyridostigmine cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common pyridostigmine side-effects
||What can I do if I experience this?
|Feeling or being sick, diarrhoea
||Avoid rich or spicy foods, and drink plenty of water. If this becomes troublesome, speak with your doctor who may prescribe you a medicine to help control these symptoms
|Abdominal cramps, more saliva produced than usual
||If either of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor for further advice
How to store pyridostigmine
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
- Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
- This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
- Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
- If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.