Guillain - Barre Syndrome
This is a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves. This weakens your nerves and gives a tingling sensation in the affected areas. Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatments are explained as follows.
This is a rare disorder and it requires immediate attention and treatment. There's no cure yet for Guillain - Barre Syndrome, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of illness. Most people recover from it but they also have some lingering effects like numbness, fatigue and weaknesses.
Guillain-Barré syndrome often begins with tingling and weakness starting in your feet and legs and spreading to your upper body and arms. In about half of people with the disorder, symptoms begin in the arms or face. As Guillain-Barré syndrome progresses, muscle weakness can evolve into paralysis.
Signs and symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome may include:
- Prickling, pins and needles sensations in your fingers, toes, ankles or wrists.
- Weakness in your legs that spreads to your upper body.
- Unsteady walking or inability to walk or climb stairs.
- Difficulty with eye or facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing.
- Severe pain that may feel achy or cramp like and may be worse at night.
- Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Low or high blood pressure.
- Difficulty breathing.
The exact cause is unknown. But the disorder appears days or weeks after a respiratory or digestive tract infection. A recent surgery or immunization can sometimes trigger this syndrome.
What happens in this syndrome ?
The immune system which usually attacks the invading organisms begins to attack the nerves and the nerves protecting sheath gets damaged. This prevents the nerves to transmit signals to your brain and causes weaknesses, numbness and paralysis.
Signs and symptoms are close and similar to other neurological disorders and it varies from person to person.
Few diagnostic methods are:
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) - A small amount of fluid is withdrawn from the spinal canal in your lower back. The fluid is tested for a type of change that commonly occurs in people who have Guillain-Barré syndrome.
- Electromyograph - Thin-needle electrodes are inserted into the muscles your doctor wants to study. The electrodes measure nerve activity in the muscles.
- Nerve conduction studies - Electrodes are taped to the skin above your nerves. A small shock is passed through the nerve to measure the speed of nerve signals.
There's no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome. But two types of treatments can speed recovery and reduce the severity of the illness:
Plasma exchange or plasmapheresis - The liquid portion is removed and separated from the blood cells and then again put back into the body to manufacture more plasma and to make up for what was removed. This helps in riding the plasma or certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system's attack on the peripheral nerves.
Immunoglobulin therapy - Immunoglobulin containing healthy antibodies from blood donors is given through a vein (intravenously). High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
You also are likely to be given medication to:
- Relieve pain, which can be severe.
- Prevent blood clots, which can develop while you're immobile.
Immunoglobulin Infusion Therapy (IVIG)