Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder characterised by autoimmune destruction of the myelin sheath of peripheral nerves.

Causes

  • Autoimmune
  • Often follows a routine viral or bacterial infection
  • Can also appear alongside AIDS, herpes simplex or mononucelosis (glandular fever)

Signs and symptoms

  • Symptoms can appear quite suddenly and progress quickly
  • bilateral muscle weakness
  • hand and foot tingling sensation and pain
  • difficulty walking
  • clumsiness
  • “ascending paralysis” affecting legs first and then arms
  • can also affect the diaphragm causing breathing difficulties
  • blurred vision
  • low blood pressure
  • heart palpitations / awareness of own heart beat

Treatment

  • There is no cure but symptoms can be managed
  • recovery is usually within weeks to months
  • may need hospital care if symptoms progress
  • medical treatment includes:
    • corticosteroids – to reduce inflammation
    • plasmapharesis – to remove antibodies from blood
    • intravenous immunoglobulin therapy – to block antibodies

Prognosis

  • 80% will make a full recovery
  • 15% will have some long-term effects
    • muscle weakness, loss of sensation, difficulty walking etc
  • 5% will die
    • usually from respiratory problems or sepsis

Sources:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001704/
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Guillain-Barre-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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