Guillain–Barré syndrome is a disorder that affects peripheral nervous system. This condition is actually an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy characterized by ascending paralysis. Patients with Guillain–Barré syndrome usually experience progressive loss of feeling in feet and hands. This weakness gradually migrates towards the trunk and sometimes even causes life-threatening complications. The most severe consequences may occur when the disease affects breathing muscles or causes dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. This is a rare condition that affects one or two individuals per 100,000 people each year. However, it still remains one of the most serious health concerns and the leading cause of non-trauma-related paralysis in the world.
What is chronic Guillain–Barré syndrome?
As already mentioned, Guillain–Barré syndrome is an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. In most cases, patients will begin to recover after a month from the onset of the disease. In only a couple of months, most of the patients (about 80% of them) will be completely recovered. Small percentage of patients, somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, will recover with severe disability including proximal motor and sensory axonal damage. However, this is a serious condition that causes death in 2–3% of all patients. Chronic Guillain–Barré syndrome is diagnosed in patients who have one or more relapses of the disease, even after they initially recover. This chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy affects 5 and 10 percent of patients.
Signs and symptoms of Guillain–Barré syndrome
Guillain–Barré syndrome usually starts from the lower limbs and slowly affects the rest of the body. Patients may complain about rubbery legs that tend to buckle, feel numb or tingling. The progression of the disease is sometimes very rapid, and occurs in just a couple of hours. The weakness affects arms, facial muscles, and sometimes cranial nerves. In some patients it may cause respiratory difficulties so that patients may need ventilator assistance. Patients often feel deep aching pain in their week muscles, but this symptom is relatively easy treated with analgesics. In severe cases, bladder dysfunction may occur, as well spinal cord disorder. In most severe cases, Guillain–Barré syndrome is associated with fluctuations in blood pressure, orthostatic hypotension, and cardiac arrhythmia.
Causes of Guillain–Barré syndrome
Guillain–Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when body’s immune system responds to foreign antigens but mistargets the host nerve tissues instead. This way, the body attacks its own gangliosides in nerve tissues and causes inflammatory reaction. It most commonly occurs in conjunction with antecedent infection with Campylobacter jejuni bacterium. In about 60% of cases, the cause is unknown.