Lambert-Eaton syndrome is a disorder in which faulty communication between nerves and muscles leads to
Myasthenic syndrome; Eaton-Lambert syndrome; Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome; LEMS
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Lambert-Eaton syndrome is an autoimmune system. This means your immune system mistakenly targets healthy cells and tissues in the body. In this syndrome, substances produced by the immune system attack nerve cells. This makes nerves cells unable to release enough of a chemical called acetylcholine. This chemical transmits impulses between nerves and muscles.
The result is muscle weakness.
Lambert-Eaton syndrome may occur with cancers such as small cell lung cancer or
Symptoms may include:
Weaknessor loss of movement that can be more or less severe, including: Difficulty chewing
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Difficulty lifting objects
- Difficulty talking
- Drooping head
- Need to use hands to get up from sitting or lying positions
Swallowing difficulty, gagging, or
- Vision changes such as:
- Double vision
- Problems keeping a steady gaze
Symptoms related to the autonomic nervous system usually occur, and include:
Blood pressure changes
Dizziness upon standing
Signs and tests
A detailed medical history will be taken to determine risk factors, such as a history of certain cancers.
A physical examination shows:
Possible loss of muscle tissue
Weakness or paralysis that gets slightly better with activity
Tests to help diagnose and confirm the condition may include:
Electromyography(EMG) to test the health of the muscle fibers
Nerve conduction velocity(NCV) to test the speed of electrical activity along nerves
The main goals of treatment are to:
Identify and treat any underlying disorders, such as lung cancer
Give treatment to help with the weakness
A treatment called plasma exchange usually improves symptoms. Plasma exchange involves removing blood plasma from the body and replacing it with donated plasma. This helps to make sure that any harmful proteins (
Plasmapheresis may also be effective. During this treatment, the blood is removed from the body. The plasma is separated, the antibodies are removed, and the plasma is returned to the body.
Medications that suppress the
Anticholinesterase medications such as neostigmine or pyridostigmine (although these are not very effective when given alone)
3, 4-diaminopyridine, which increases the release of acetylcholine from nerve cells
The symptoms of Lambert-Eaton syndrome may improve by treating the underlying disease, suppressing the immune system, or removing the antibodies. However, not everyone responds well to treatment.
- Difficulty breathing, including
- Difficulty swallowing
- Infections, such as
- Injuries from falls and problems with coordination
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if symptoms of this condition develop.