Guillain Barre syndrome is a set of symptoms and signs which occur after a mild viral infection (e.g. throat infections, bronchitis, flu etc). It can also affect people who have just undergone a surgical procedure or have been recently vaccinated.
Due to different triggers the body's immune system starts to behave awkwardly and attack parts of the nervous system. As a result the syndrome leads to muscle weakness. There is a symmetric weakness of the limbs which generally begins in the legs. The weakness may sometimes progress and cause complete paralysis.
Guillain Barre Syndrome Causes and Risk Factors
Guillain Barre syndrome can be classified as autoimmune disorder. Still, the actual cause of the abnormal immune system response has not been identified yet. Even though the condition may affect people of all ages, it is mostly reported among individuals between the ages of 30 and 50.
As it has been mentioned there are many infections that can precede Guillain Barre syndrome and are blamed for the abnormal response of the immune system. The symptoms and signs of these infections usually clear completely when Guillain Barre syndrome starts to occur.
The body attacks its own nerves (certain parts of the nerves). This is why patients complain about tingling sensation, weakness of the affected muscles and may sometimes even end with a paralysis.
Guillain Barre syndrome is reported to occur with certain viral infections more. These include HIV, Herpes simplex infection and mononucelosis. Furthermore, the syndrome is reported to affect individuals suffering from lupus erythematosus (another autoimmune disease) and Hodgkin's disease.
Guillain Barre Syndrome Clinical Characteristics
Muscle weakness affects both sides of the body symmetrically. If facial nerves are affected, one may have problems with speech (slurred speech) and if the optic nerve is affected, one deals with blurred vision. There are abnormal sensations (tingling, numbness etc) in both, hands and feet.
More complex cases of muscle weakness are the cause of breathing and swallowing difficulties. All the symptoms tend to progress rapidly within hours or days. Recovery starts after 2-4 weeks.Guillain Barre Syndrome Therapy
After diagnosing the syndrome (according to clinical features, characteristic changes in the spinal fluid and electrical studies of the peripheral nerves) doctors give their best to deal with symptoms and prevent permanent complications.
There is no specific treatment for Guillain Barre syndrome. Still, majority of patients are hospitalized and treated symptomatically. The one effective treatment is plasmapheresis. This is a procedure that includes filtering of the blood. By doing so, the blood plasma gets cleared of antibodies responsible for the damage. There is one more, new treatment - intravenous injection of gamma globulin.
Most patients fully recover within a year while some of them may develop recurrent or chronic disease. Nevertheless, in spite of the prognosis all patients require intensive physical therapy.
Guillain Barre Syndrome Prevention
There is no way to prevent the disease. The explanation is quite simple. The scientists actually do not know what exactly triggers the abnormal reaction of the immune system. Because of that prevention of the condition is practically impossible.