Autoimmune Disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome
Browse articles:
Auto Beauty Business Culture Dieting DIY Events Fashion Finance Food Freelancing Gardening Health Hobbies Home Internet Jobs Law Local Media Men's Health Mobile Nutrition Parenting Pets Pregnancy Products Psychology Real Estate Relationships Science Seniors Sports Technology Travel Wellness Women's Health
Browse companies:
Automotive Crafts, Hobbies & Gifts Department Stores Electronics & Wearables Fashion Food & Drink Health & Beauty Home & Garden Online Services & Software Sports & Outdoors Subscription Boxes Toys, Kids & Baby Travel & Events

Autoimmune Disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain Barre Syndrome can come on suddenly and is a type of autoimmune disorder that causes the victim’s body to essentially attack itself in some fashion. In this case it is the nervous system that is affected. It can come on quickly and become severe in a matter of hours to days.

Autoimmune Diseases 

Autoimmune diseases attack people of all ages and socio-economic classes. In the normal healthy individual, white blood cells attack antigens; cancer cells, viruses, bacteria and foreign tissue such as transplanted organs. During an autoimmune response, for some unknown reason, the immune system responds to healthy normal tissue as if it is foreign tissue or disease and begins to destroy healthy tissue, organs, nerves, blood, skin and the connective tissues of the joints.

According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, there is between 80 and 100 identified autoimmune related diseases and more that are related to an autoimmune response.  Rheumatoid arthritis and AIDS are two well-known autoimmune diseases.


Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that is fairly rare, 1 in 100,000 according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, attacking the nervous system by destroying the protective insulating layer (myelin sheath) that surrounds the axon of nerve cells. The axons are the extensions of the nerve cells along which the electrical impulses flow and communicate with other cells. When the myelin is destroyed the flow of communication between the brain and nerve cells is disrupted, resulting in symptoms of weakness and numbness as seen in Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The symptoms of tingling and numbness generally begin at the extremities and spread toward the trunk of the body. Muscles begin to fail and in severe cases a person may become paralyzed and require breathing assistance.

There is no clear understanding of why it occurs or what turns the antibodies into destructive agents in the individual with Guillain-Barre but it is usually preceded by an infection or illness after which the Guillain-Barre symptoms begin a couple of weeks later.


Diagnosis is initially done by identifying symptoms. The weakness in Guillain-Barre is usually bilateral and symmetrical. The symptoms come on quickly and progress rapidly unlike some other neurological or muscular disorders which may progress over a period of many months. Individuals with Guillain-Barre have more protein in their spinal fluid and this can be examined with a spinal tap. Another diagnostic test that can be used is a nerve conduction study to see how fast the impulses are traveling along the nerves.

Treatment and Prognosis

There are a couple treatments being used to manage Guillain-Barre including blood plasma exchange whereby the patient’s blood is removed and processed to separate white and red blood cells from the plasma. Plasma cells produce antibodies. It is the antibodies that are attacking the healthy nerves. The blood cells, minus the plasma, are returned to the patient’s blood stream and new plasma is generated naturally by the patient. There is not a firm understanding of why this reduces the severity and duration but antibodies can be removed through this process which consequently helps to minimize the damage being caused to the nerves. This procedure is called plasmapheresis.

Another therapy involves injecting the patient with healthy antibodies from healthy normal donors. This is called immunoglobulin therapy.

A high percentage of patients recover from Guillain-Barre Syndrome but the recovery can be slow-going and difficult. The patient who is paralyzed is usually treated in a hospital and the patient may remain in this condition for days, weeks or months. He or she may be on a ventilator and heart monitor. Eventually, as muscle control returns, physical therapy begins and the patient must work very hard to regain strength and agility. This may take a year or longer. It may take a few years to fully regain health and stamina. The patient must also cope with a life change that comes suddenly and creates a dependent situation that is not easy to accept by a previously healthy individual.

This article is intended for general information only and should not be relied upon for medical advice, diagnosis, prognosis or recommendations of treatment. See your doctor for any health concerns that you may have. 

Additional resources:

Need an answer?
Get insightful answers from community-recommended
in Immune System Diseases on Knoji.
Would you recommend this author as an expert in Immune System Diseases?
You have 0 recommendations remaining to grant today.
Comments (3)

Good article and very informative

RA is very painful and expensive to maintain.  I know a few people who have RA.

This is a serious and life threatening disease which also resembles other disorders such as MS, AVM , Transverse Myelitis and many others.