LEMS Diagnosis
and Treatment

Finding the right doctor is the key to unlocking your diagnosis

Your primary care physician is the ideal healthcare partner to help you maintain your general health. Their role is to provide exams, treat minor illnesses, and refer you to specialists when severe illness or symptoms appear.

Symptoms that include debilitating muscle weakness require the expertise of a physician trained in neuromuscular medicine—the study of nerves, muscles, and how they interact.

Specialists who can help

Specialists who can diagnose and treat Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome

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Neurologists

Physicians who specialize in conditions that affect the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves in the body.

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Neuromuscular specialists

Physicians who specialize in conditions that affect the neuromuscular system, including disorders of the neuromuscular junction.

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Physiatrists

Physicians who specialize in physical medicine and the rehabilitation of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, bones, joints, nerves, and muscles.

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Preparing to talk with your LEMS specialist

Before meeting with the doctor, write down notes that include a brief but thorough description of your current health status. Be sure to include:

  • Specific information about your symptoms and how they affect your daily activities
  • A timeline of your illness: when symptoms first appeared, how they progressed, and whether they’ve fluctuated, gotten better, or gotten worse
  • Details about previous treatments you’ve received or used, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies, and any physical therapy or rehab

You should also prepare a list of any questions you may have about the tests or treatments that your doctor may recommend. Here is some information that can help you have a productive conversation.

Testing for LEMS

There are 3 common testing methods that your specialist may use to diagnose your symptoms. After testing, he or she will be able to tell you whether you have LEMS, MG, or another disorder.


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A physical exam

to evaluate your symptoms and test your reflexes. A diagnosis can sometimes be made just from this exam.

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To confirm diagnosis, your doctor may order additional tests

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A blood test

to check for the presence of certain antibodies (special proteins made by your immune system).

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An electrodiagnostic test

to measure how well your muscles and nerves are communicating with each other.





Screening for cancer

Once a diagnosis of LEMS is confirmed, your doctor may decide to run more tests. If your symptoms are severe—or have progressed very quickly—this could be a sign that your LEMS is related to cancer.


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About 50%

of LEMS cases are caused by an underlying tumor—often small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC).

The majority of these cases occur in people with a history of smoking.

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Tests may include an x-ray or CT scan

If your doctor suspects SCLC, he or she may order an X-ray or CT (computer tomography) scan of your chest to see if a tumor is present. Once the cause of your LEMS symptoms has been determined, your doctor will discuss the best treatment plan for you.

Treating LEMS


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Cancer-related LEMS should be referred to an oncologist, who will treat the tumor. Chemotherapy is usually prescribed for this type of cancer. Treating the tumor may also help improve the symptoms of LEMS. Your doctor will decide if other therapies are necessary to manage your LEMS symptoms.

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Non-tumor LEMS, related only to the immune system, may be treated by a neurologist or neuromuscular specialist. A daily oral medicine is usually prescribed to help nerve signals reach the muscles, relieving LEMS symptoms. This medicine must be taken daily to maintain its positive effects.

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During a severe flare of LEMS symptoms, immunosuppressive therapies may be prescribed to help stop the immune system from attacking your nerves and provide short-term relief.

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