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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome


Other Names for this Disease

  • Eaton Lambert syndrome
  • Lambert Eaton syndrome
  • LEMS
  • Myasthenic syndrome of Lambert-Eaton
  • Myasthenic-Myopathic syndrome of Lambert-Eaton
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

My husband had Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome. Are our two children at risk to develop this condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome?

Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) is a disorder of the neuromuscular junction. The neuromuscular junction is the site where nerve cells meet muscle cells and help activate the muscles.[1] This syndrome occurs when antibodies interfere with electrical impulses between the nerve and muscle cells. It may be associated with other autoimmune diseases, or more commonly coincide with or precede a diagnosis of cancer such as small cell lung cancer. Symptoms may include muscle weakness, a tingling sensation in the affected areas, fatigue, and dry mouth.[1] Treatment of a underlying disorder or cancer is the first priority of treatment.
Last updated: 4/22/2011

What causes Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome?

Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome is the result of an autoimmune process which causes a disruption of electrical impulses between nerve cells and muscle fibers.[2][3][4] In cases where Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome appears in association with cancer, the cause may be that the body’s attempt to fight the cancer inadvertently causes it to attack nerve fiber endings, especially the voltage-gated calcium channels found there. The trigger for the cases not associated with cancer is unknown.[2][5]
Last updated: 10/28/2009

Is Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome genetic?

The answer to this question is complex. Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome is an autoimmune condition which means that the immune system, which normally protects the body from foreign invaders (infections, cancers, etc.) mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues. Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome is frequently associated with other known autoimmune disease such as pernicious anemia, thyroid disease, and Sjögren's syndrome. A family history of autoimmune disease is found in 34% of patients who have this primary diagnosis.[6] 

While the condition is not known to follow a specific pattern of inheritance, there appears to be a genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases in general.[5] Families with a history of Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome may benefit from consulting with a genetics professional. 

Last updated: 10/28/2009

How can I find a genetics professional in my area?

Genetics clinics are a source of information for people and families with a genetic condition. More information about genetic consultations is available from Genetics Home Reference. To find a genetics clinic, we recommend that you contact your primary healthcare provider for a referral.

The following online resources can help you find a genetics professional in your community:
  • GeneTests offers a searchable directory of U.S. and international genetics and prenatal diagnosis clinics.
  • The National Society of Genetic Counselors provides a database of genetics counseling services, searchable by location, name, institution, type of practice, or specialty.
  • The University of Kansas Medical Center provides a list of links to genetic centers and clinics, associations, and university genetics departments.
  • The American College of Medical Genetics has a Genetics Clinics Database for individuals who wish to locate a U.S. genetics center.
  • The American Society of Human Genetics is a professional organization of researchers and clinical geneticists. The ASHG maintains a database of its members, some of whom live outside of the United States. Visit the ASHG site if you are interested in obtaining a list of the geneticists in your country, though some may be researchers only and may not offer medical care.
Last updated: 11/19/2014

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Eaton Lambert syndrome
  • Lambert Eaton syndrome
  • LEMS
  • Myasthenic syndrome of Lambert-Eaton
  • Myasthenic-Myopathic syndrome of Lambert-Eaton
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.