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GUILLAIN - BARRE - SYNDROME

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the nerve fibres. It produces numbness, weakness and prickling of the peripheral nervous system, thus damaging the myelin sheath of the nerve fibres. It also leads to paralysis in extreme conditions.

The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is not known, however, it is assumed to occur due to respiratory tract infections or stomach flu.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder that usually affects men over women, with maximum cases reported in the older population.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome originates in the lower extremities of the limbs and progresses towards the upper part of the body. Paralysis is observed when Guillain-Barre syndrome majorly affects the nerve fibres.

The symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome include:

  • Sharp prickling sensation over the hand and feet
  • Weakness in the lower extremities that spreads to the upper part of the body
  • Difficulty in walking straight or climbing stairs
  • Difficulty in maintaining normal facial movements
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing food
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Increased or decreased blood pressure
  • Unusual weakness and tiredness

CAUSES

The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is not known. However, studies suggest respiratory tract infections or stomach flu to be the cause of the infection. Guillain-Barre syndrome may also develop post-surgery or after any immunization procedure.

RISK FACTORS

The risk of developing Guillain-Barre syndrome may increase with the following conditions:

  • Infections of Campylobacter (present in uncooked food)
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Influenza virus
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma

COMPLICATIONS

A wide range of complications is observed as Guillain-Barre syndrome affects the nerve fibers in the body. The complications that arise due to Guillain-Barre syndrome are:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Increased or decreased blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of sensation
  • Numbness of the hands and feet
  • Nerve pain
  • Blood clots
  • Relapse of the condition
  • Bed sores
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction

DIAGNOSIS

Guillain-Barre syndrome is diagnosed by the following diagnostic measures:

  • Lumbar puncture test: The test is performed by making a hole into the lower spinal cord. A needle is inserted into the spinal cord for extraction of fluid. The extract is then monitored for change in the consistency.
  • Electromyography: The test is performed by inserting thin-needle like electrodes into the body muscles. This helps in measuring the nerve activity of the muscles.
  • Nerve conduction studies: The test is performed by attaching electrodes to the skin just above the nerves. A slight shock is passed over the skin. The nerve impulses produced are recorded to measure the intensity of the impulse produced.

TREATMENT

Medication therapy

Medication therapy may focus on reducing the risk of infections and other drugs to treat pain and inflammation. Anticoagulant drugs are also used to prevent blood clots due to prolonged immobile condition.

Other treatment therapies

The other treatment therapies of Guillain-Barre syndrome include:

  • Plasma exchange: The procedure involves reducing the plasma content in the body that is responsible for the immune attack. Plasma is collected by separating the blood cells and plasma after the removal of the blood. The separated blood cells are then sent back to the body that helps in the regeneration of new blood cells.
  • Immunoglobulin therapy: The procedure is performed by the administration of immunoglobulin present in the donor’ blood that produces antibodies. This helps in blocking the activity of the antibodies that cause damage to the nerve fibers.

Management and support

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a chronic health condition that requires a longer duration of treatment and recovery. This requires extensive support of family and friends for better rehabilitative measures. Visiting the doctor regularly is essential for the management of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Guillain-Barre syndrome takes months or years for complete recovery from the condition. However, medication therapy followed by other therapies, such as physiotherapy promotes better recovery from the condition.

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