Guillan-Barre Syndrome is a serious autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system. The nerves in your peripheral nervous system connects the brain to the rest of the body and transmit signals to the muscles. The syndrome will affect signals to be carry on the muscles which leads to dysfunction. This rare disease can lead to weakness, numbness and even paralysis. The definite cause of this syndrome is unknown, however, several conditions are linked to the formation of this disease, including:
- Campylobacter Jejuni Infection – Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrhea.
- Cytomegalovirus, which is a strain of the herpes virus
- Epstein-Barr Virus Infection, or Mononucleosis
- Mycoplasma Pneumonia, which is an atypical pneumonia caused by bacteria-like organisms
- HIV or AIDS
Older adults and men are more likely to develop this condition. There is no cure to Guillain-Barré syndrome, treatments may involve reducing symptoms and complications.
The symptoms of Guillain-Barré include:
- Instability when walking
- Severe lower back pain
- Loss of bladder control or bowel problems
- Fast heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Tingling or prickly sensations in your fingers and toes
- Difficulty moving your eyes or face, talking, chewing, or swallowing
- Muscle weakness in the legs that travels to the upper body and gets worse over time
Symptoms and other complications include:
- Cramp-like pain that gets worse at night
- High or low blood pressure
- Blood clots
- Pressure sores if a person is immobile for a considerable length of time
- Psychological and cognitive difficulties
Diagnosing Guillain-Barre syndrome can be challenging since it resembles the symptoms of other neurological disorders such as meningitis and botulism.
The following tests can help confirm Guillain-Barre syndrome.
- Spinal Tap (or Lumbar Puncture)- A small amount of fluid is withdarwn from the spine for testing. People with this syndrome may have higher level of protein than usual.
- Electromygraphy – This tests the functionality of the nerves.
- Nerve Conduction Tests- This measures how your nerves and muscles respond to small electrical pulses.
When a person is diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, he or she must be admitted to the hospital for close observation. It is because the symptoms gets worsen quickly and can be life-threatening.
Treatment may include:
- Plasmapheresis (Plasma Exchange) – It remove the antibodies that mistakenly attacking the nerves from the blood. A machine is use to withdraw the antibodies and return the blood back to the body.
- Intravenous immunoglobulin – High doses of immunoglobin are used to block antibodies that causes the syndrome. It comes from a healthy donor and equally effective as the Plasmapheresis.
The doctor may prescribed medication that relieves pain and prevent blood clots. A physical therapist may help your muscles to recover and making it strong and flexible.