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Lambert-Eaton Syndrome

Lambert-Eaton Syndrome, also known as Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome, occurs when your immune system attacks the neuromuscular junction—the area where your nerves and muscles connect. Normally, your nerve cells pass signals along to your muscle cells. These signals help your muscles move. Because Lambert-Eaton Syndrome affects the way your nerves and muscles communicate, the disorder can make it difficult to move your muscles as you normally would.

Facts about Lambert-Eaton Syndrome

This condition is often associated with cancer. In particular, people with small cell lung cancer may develop this disorder. This syndrome may result from your body's efforts to fight the underlying cancer.

Symptoms

These are possible symptoms of Lambert-Eaton Syndrome:

  • Weak muscles

  • Difficulty walking

  • Tingling sensation in the hands or feet

  • Eyelid drooping

  • Fatigue

  • Dry mouth

  • Difficulty speaking and swallowing

  • Trouble breathing

  • Bladder and bowel changes

  • Erectile dysfunction

Diagnosis

Your doctor will review your symptoms with you and perform a physical examination. A special blood test may show that you have this condition. You may also undergo a test called electromyography, which shows how well your muscles are working. Because Lambert-Eaton Syndrome is associated with lung cancer, your doctor may order X-rays or a CT scan of your lungs.

If your doctor finds that you have this condition, you'll be checked for lung cancer and other cancers, such as lymphoma. If you do have cancer, your medical team will focus their efforts on treating it. If you don't appear to have cancer at this time, you may need regular check-ups to keep looking for an underlying cancer.

Treatment

If you have cancer, your doctor may treat it with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. If you have cancer and respond well to treatment, your Lambert-Eaton Syndrome is more likely to get better. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to suppress your immune system or to help improve the signals between your nerve and muscle cells.

You may also undergo a treatment called plasmapheresis. This involves removing proteins from your blood that may be involved in the condition.

Prevention

Because the exact cause of Lambert-Eaton Syndrome isn’t fully understood, it’s not entirely clear how to prevent the disease. The best way to reduce your risk for lung cancer, often associated with Lambert-Eaton Syndrome, is not to smoke. Other steps that may help lower your risk for lung cancer include:

  • Avoid exposure to other people's tobacco smoke.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Avoid heavy use of alcohol.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Managing this condition

Symptoms of Lambert-Eaton Syndrome may become worse when you're warm or have a fever. As a result, avoid taking hot showers or baths and contact your doctor if you start developing signs of a cold or the flu. Exercising on a regular basis and getting enough sleep may also help you manage your symptoms.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cutter, Darren MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jones, Niva MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/7/2011
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.