Guillain Barre infection is a serious health problem in which the body’s defense (immune) system attacks part of the nervous system. Consequently in nerve inflammation that triggers muscle weakness or even paralysis and other symptoms. Alternative names are GBS; Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome; Acute inflammatory polyneuropathy; A acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy; And acute idiopathic polyneuritis; Ascending paralysis; and Infectious polyneuritis.
Guillain Barre Infection: Causes
Therefore Guillain Barre syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself. The exact cause of GBS is still unknown. It can happen at any age, but mostly in people of both genders between ages 30 and 50.
GBS can be caused by infections with viruses or bacteria, such as:
- Herpes simplex
- Mycoplasma pneumonia
- Some gastrointestinal illnesses
It may also occur with other medical conditions, including:
- After surgery
- Hodgkin disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
For that reason GBS damages parts of nerves, causing tingling, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Most often, GBS affects the nerve covering (myelin sheath), which is called demyelination. It makes nerve signals move more slowly. Damage to other parts of the nerve may make the nerve stop working.
Guillain Barre Infection: Symptoms
Because symptoms of GBS may get worse quickly. It takes only several hours for the most severe symptoms to appear. However, the weakness that increases over a few days is also common. Muscle weakness or paralysis (loss of muscle function) affects both sides of the body. Quite often, the muscle weakness begins in the legs and spreads toward the upper body (ascending paralysis). If the inflammation attacks the nerves of the chest and diaphragm, you may need breathing assistance.
Other common signs and symptoms of GBS are:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Loss of tendon reflexes in the arms and legs
- Low blood pressure or poor blood pressure control
- Muscle pain or tenderness (a cramp-like pain)
- Tingling or numbness (mild loss of sensation)
- Uncoordinated movement (cannot walk without help)
Other symptoms may involve:
- Blurred vision and double vision
- Clumsiness and falling
- Difficult face muscle movement
- Muscle contractions
- Palpitations (feeling the heart beat)
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Cannot take a deep breath
- Breathing temporarily stops
- Feeling light-headed when standing
Guillain Barre Infection: Exams and Tests
A history of repeating muscle weakness and paralysis can be a sign of GBS, especially if an illness happened recently. A medical exam may reveal muscle weakness. There might be problems with heart rate and blood pressure. These functions are automatically controlled by the nervous system. Exams may also show that whether reflexes such as the ankle or knee jerk are declined or missing.
The paralysis of the breathing muscles may trigger decreased breathing. The following tests are done to detect these signs:
- Pulmonary function tests
- Nerve conduction velocity test
- Cerebrospinal fluid sample (spinal tap)
- ECG (electrocardiogram) to evaluate the electrical activity of the heart
- EMG (electromyography) to check the electrical activity in muscles
Guillain Barre Infection: Treatment
Finally at this juncture, there is no cure for GBS. Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms, healing complications, and speeding up recovery. The first stages of the treatment involve apheresis or plasmapheresis, which means removing or blocking the proteins (antibodies) that attack the nerve cells. Another method is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg). Both treatments result in faster improvement, and both are evenly effective. However, there is no advantage when using both at the same time.
When symptoms are becoming worse, treatment in the hospital is necessary. For that reason breathing support will be given. Other treatments focus on preventing complications, including:
- Pain medicines to treat pain and reduce fever;
- Blood thinners to prevent blood clots;
- Breathing support such as a breathing tube and ventilator, if the diaphragm is weak;
- Adequate body positioning or a feeding tube to avoid choking during feeding when the muscles used for swallowing are weak; and
- Physical therapy to keep joints and muscles healthy.
Guillain Barre Infection: Prognosis
Therefore recovery may take weeks, months, or even years. The recovery period for GBS can be long, but most patients recover fully within 6-12 months. Only in some people, mild weakness might persist. In general, symptoms get worse for 2-4 weeks before they stabilize. The outcome is possibly good if the symptoms go away within three weeks after they first appeared.
Due to 80 percent of patients with GBS can walk at six months, and 60 percent recover their muscle strength. For some, however, recovery may take longer. 30 percent still suffer some weakness after three years. That the reason that about 3 percent will experience a relapse of their symptoms.
Therefore in rare cases, the condition might become life-threatening if you do not get treatment. Factors that can lead to a worse outcome involve:
- old age
- delay of treatment
- prolonged use of a respirator
- severe or rapidly progressing illness
Above and beyond physical symptoms, you may also experience emotional difficulties. As a result it can be challenging to adapt to limited mobility and an ashamed dependence on others. It is advisable for you to talk to a therapist.
Guillain Barre Infection: Complications
As conclusion Guillain-Barre syndrome affects your nerves and multiple parts of your body. You may need a respirator to help you breathe. Possible complications of GBS can also include:
- Breathing difficulty (respiratory failure)
- Breathing food or fluids into the lungs
- Blood clots and bedsores when the patient is inactive or has to stay in bed
- Increased risk of infections
- Lingering weakness, numbness, or other sensations even after recovery
- Low or unstable blood pressure
- Paralysis that is permanent
- Shortening of tissues in the joints or other deformities
- Skin damage (ulcers)
- Slow bowel or bladder function
Guillain Barre Infection: Facts of GBS
- Because Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare condition, afflicting only about one person in 100,000.
- Probably patients’ immune system itself attacks their nerves, causing muscle weakness and paralysis.
- The exact cause of Guillain-Barre is not known yet, but it often happens after a viral or bacterial infection.
- Therefore no cure is available for Guillain-Barre, but most people spontaneously fully recover. Consequently recovery can be slow, lasting from several weeks to several years.
- Occasionally surgery may trigger the syndrome. Because vaccinations, in rare instances, may increase the risk of Guillain-Barre infection.
- Neurological scientists, virologists, immunologists, and pharmacologists are working collaboratively to figure out how to prevent this disorder and to invent better therapies available when it strikes.
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