Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Causes, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
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Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Causes, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Guillain-barre syndrome, what is it? It is an acute inflammatory demeyelinating polyneuropathy disorder. How is it caused, what are the signs and symptoms of guillain-barre syndrome, how is it diagnosed and what are the various treatments available; find them here... Is there a permanent cure for GBS? Check out...

Guillain-Barre is an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system; it is a rare, but serious condition. It is sometimes referred to as “Landry’s paralysis.” In simple terms, Guillain-Barre is a condition in which the immune system affects the nervous system accidently or erroneously. Guillain-Barre is a French word and should be pronounced as Ghee-lan Bar-ray.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Causes

The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is not known; however, it is found that most people who suffered from a recent illness like viral infection, flu, bacterial infection, etc., have higher chances of developing Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is due to the fact that Guillain-Barre syndrome is due to disorder of immune system.

What exactly happens in our body when affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome? The role of immune system in our body is to use white blood cells (WBC), produce antibodies and fight infections caused by bacteria or viruses. When affected with Guillain-Barre syndrome this doesn’t happen.

Guillain-Barre syndromeImage via nursingprogramguide

Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Signs & Symptoms

In general, the symptoms start to show up within a few days; however, in some of the cases, signs may develop slowly and steadily and may be shown only after a few weeks time. Signs and symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome are:

1. Numbness or tingling in legs

2. Legs tend to buckle up

3. Weakness in legs

4. Temporary paralysis of arms, legs and face

5. Difficulty in swallowing

6. Temporary respiratory problems

7. Abnormalities in eye movements

8. Sensory loss

9. Complete loss of deep tendon reflexes

10. Muscle contractions

In severe cases, some of these symptoms may occur:

1. Bladder dysfunction

2. Spinal cord disorder

3. Loss of autonomic function, meaning, wide fluctuations in blood pressure, heart beat, etc.

4. In some cases, the patients had to be put on a ventilator.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Diagnosis

It is very hard to diagnose Guillain-Barre syndrome in the initial stages as these might look very similar to various other neurological disorders; however, some of the common tests or diagnosis include:

1. Lumbar spinal puncture: This is done by taking a small amount of fluid from the spinal cord at lumbar level. This fluid is tested to see whether a particular type of change occurs that is specific to persons affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome.

2. Electromyography (EMG): This is done to see whether the weakness you feel is due to damage in nerves or muscles.

3. Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS): This is done to evaluate how nerves and muscles respond when small amounts of electrical stimuli are given.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Treatment

Even though there is no complete cure, but with supportive care majority of the patients recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome in about few years time; complete recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome may take between few months to as long as three years depending on the severity.

Two major treatments for patients diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome include:

1. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg): As we know that the antibodies fail to function normally in Guillain-Barre syndrome, patients are given high doses of immunoglobulin. This ensures that the damaged antibodies are blocked.

2. Plasmapheresis: This is a type of blood cleansing also known as plasma exchange. There is a yellowish fluid present in our blood and is called as the plasma. Plasma helps in transporting blood cells and platelets across our body. Plasmapheresis process consists of removing a part of blood from the body, separating and removing plasma, and then re-injecting the blood without the harmful plasma that attacks the nerves.

These are the major treatments; however, depending on the seriousness and further developments, additional treatments may be given by the medical practitioner.


Guillain-Barre syndrome: Medlineplus; Guillain-Barre syndrome: Mayo Clinic

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