Guillain-Barre Syndrome – Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves causing weakness and eventually can be paralyzing.
How do you get Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
The cause is unknown for Guillain-Barre Syndrome. About 50% of cases occur shortly after a microbial infection, such as a common cold, seasonal flu or food poisoning. Some theories suggest an autoimmune trigger, in which the patient’s defense system of antibodies and white blood cells are called into action against the body, damaging myelin, leading to numbness and weakness.
Is Guillain-Barre Autoimmune?
GBS in its early stages is unpredictable, so except in very mild cases, most newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized. Usually, a new case of GBS is admitted to ICU (Intensive Care) to monitor breathing and other body functions until the disease is stabilized.
Plasma exchange (a blood “cleansing” procedure) and high dose intravenous immune globulins are often helpful to shorten the course of GBS. The acute phase of GBS typically varies in length from a few days to months, with over 90% of patients moving into the rehabilitative phase within four weeks. Patient care involves the coordinated efforts of a team such as a neurologist, physiatrist, internist, family physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, and psychologist or psychiatrist. Some patients require speech therapy if speech muscles have been affected.
There are many variants of GBS, but they all share the characteristic of being ‘rapid onset’:
- Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (AIDP) 75% – 80% of cases fall into this ‘classic’ category
- Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN) Similar to AIDP, but without sensory symptoms
- Acute Motor Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN) Severe variant of GBS more prevalent in Asia, Central America, and South America
- Miller Fisher Syndrome Characterized by double vision, loss of balance, and deep tendon reflexes
Guillain-Barre Syndrome Symptoms
+ Pain areas:in the muscles
+ Muscular: muscle weakness, abnormality walking, problems with coordination, or weakness of the arms and legs
+ Whole body: fatigue or high blood pressure
+ Heart: abnormal heart rhythm or fast heart rate
+ Also common: difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, facial muscle weakness, shortness of breath, slow reflexes, uncomfortable tingling and burning, urinary retention, or difficulty raising the foot
Diagnosis for Guillain-Barre Syndrome
+ Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
To confirm a diagnosis, two tests may be performed:
- A lumbar puncture looking for elevated fluid protein
- Electrical test of nerve and muscle function
Guillain-Barre Syndrome Treatment
There’s no cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome. But two types of treatments can speed recovery and reduce the severity of the illness:
Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis). The liquid portion of part of your blood (plasma) is removed and separated from your blood cells. The blood cells are then put back into your body, which manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. Plasmapheresis may work by ridding plasma of certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system’s attack on the peripheral nerves.
Immunoglobulin therapy. Immunoglobulin containing healthy antibodies from blood donors is given through a vein (intravenously). High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barre syndrome.