What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
The nerves are long cylindrical wire-shaped structures that help convey vital information between your brain or spinal cord and virtually every muscle and organ in your body including the skin. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare condition in which your own immune system attacks the protective covering around your nerves, called myelin, and leads to malfunctioning of the nerves.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome symptoms and signs.
Guillain-Barré syndrome usually begins gradually with tingling and weakness in the feet which slowly spreads upwards to your legs, torso and arms. In some severe cases, it could lead to total paralysis and may compromise the breathing process.
Symptoms and signs related to Guillain-Barré syndrome include:
- Weakness and numbness in your legs
- Unsteady walking
- Experiencing some facial movement problems, like being unable to speak, chew or smile
- Difficulty breathing
Guillain-Barré Syndrome Common Causes
Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs after a stimulus of some kind triggers an abnormal immune response that attacks the nerves’ protective covering -the myelin sheath. The absence of myelin is the reason why neural transmission is impaired and this ultimately leads to symptoms. Although the exact cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome remains unknown, there are some well-known triggers that include respiratory or digestive infections with some germs that include:
- Campylobacter bacteria
- Influenza virus
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Zika virus
- Hepatitis A, B, C and E
Additionally, it’s well-known that Guillain-Barré syndrome is more common among young men than the general population.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome Diagnosis
If your doctor suspects that you might have this condition, there are some lab tests that might help confirm it, which include:
- Lumbar puncture. During this procedure, a small amount of your spinal fluid will be taken through a needle placed in your spinal canal in your lower back. Doctors will examine the spinal fluid for some typical changes caused by the condition.
- Nerve conduction study. Which allows your doctor to measure the electrical nerve impulses and functioning in your nerves through some electrodes placed on your skin. This provides additional diagnostic information and helps determine the variety and severity of your condition. It can also be used at much later to monitor how well your nerves are recovering from the damage caused by the condition.
- Electromyography (EMG).In which your doctor will insert a needle electrode through your skin into selected muscles to evaluate their electrical activity and gather information on the severity of your condition.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatment
There are some internationally recommended treatment options that can speed up recovery and reduce the impact and severity of the disease. These include:
- Immunoglobulin therapy. This therapy works by introducing in your blood some healthy antibodies that help neutralize the harmful antibodies that are responsible for damaging your nerves.
- Plasmapheresis. During this procedure, your plasma (which is the liquid portion of your blood) is exchanged, in order to remove the harmful disease-causing antibodies from your blood. Plasmapheresis is cumbersome and expensive and has not been proven to be better than immunoglobulin.
- This usually goes hand-in-hand with one of the primary treatments highlighted above.