What disease does Empire’s Lucious Lyon have?

Lucious Lyon

If you weren’t one of the more than 16.7 million viewers who tuned into the gloriously over-the-top Sharkjumpalooza that was the two-hour Empire Season 1 finale last night, then you might want to stop reading now because we’re going to be talking about a (maybe THE) major spoiler from last night.

OK, so are we down to just 16.7 million readers now? Good. Then all of you know that Lucious Lyon (aka Dwight Walker — anybody else think Lucious said The White Walker at first? I thought Empire was about to go all Game of Thrones there for a second!) was told by his soon-to-be former doctor that he had been misdiagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) thanks to the keen eye of his male nurse, who picked up on the fact that Lucious was experiencing double vision, which is not a symptom of ALS.

Lucious is informed that he has myasthenia gravis (MG) instead, a different neuromuscular disorder that is chronic, but treatable and very rarely fatal. In another example of something that is very rare, Lucious Lyon’s dramatic reaction seems completely justified as he asks his doctor why he wasn’t tested for MG before handing over her medical bag and saying, “Get the hell outta my house.” I think I would hae said the same thing if I were in his designer Empire loafers.

Obviously, Lucious Lyon not having a terminal disease that was going to kill him within three years is a pretty major plot twist — and that’s on the show that is the Chubby Checker of plot twists!

Empire's Lucious Lyon happy after being told he doesn't hace ALS

So how will having MG affect Lucious Lyon on the first few episodes of Season 2, up until he is diagnosed with some other rare medical condition? Here is a description of the symptoms and treatments from Mercy Health System:

What is myasthenia gravis?

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic disease marked by different levels of weakness in the voluntary muscles of the body (like the eyes and throat). The muscles that control breathing and neck and limb movements can also be involved.

The first symptoms of myasthenia gravis may be:

• Weakness of the eye muscles
• Difficulty in swallowing
• Slurred speech

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease because the immune system–which normally protects the body from foreign organisms–mistakenly attacks itself. It is not inherited or contagious.
How is myasthenia gravis treated?

Myasthenia gravis can’t be cured, but it can be controlled. Treatment options include:

Medicines: some increase muscle strength, and others cause the body to make fewer abnormal antibodies. They have to be used with careful medical follow up because they may cause major side effects

Surgery: thymectomy is the surgical removal of the thymus gland. The thymus gland is often abnormal in people with myasthenia gravis. Removing it improves symptoms in some people.

With treatment, most people with myasthenia can greatly improve their muscle weakness. Some cases may go into remission temporarily, and muscle weakness may disappear so that they can stop taking medicine for it.

Speaking purely in terms of potential plot twists, it doesn’t sound as though Lucious’ current condition will allow for too much. Possibly he could have someone switch out his medicine, causing his tremors and double vision to come back temporarily? (Not very exciting, I know.) Of course, if Lucious never had ALS, then Boo Boo Kitty’s dad didn’t commit fraud and Lucious no longer has that blackmail bargaining chip to hold over her head.

* You can find out more about myasthenia gravis at the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America’s website.

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