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Guillain Barre Syndrome Facts and Information

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Guillain Barre Syndrome

Guillain Barre Syndrome affects the nerve covering

Guillain Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder where the peripheral nervous system is being attacked by the body's own immune system. Because the peripheral nerves are involved, the common symptoms experienced include weakness and abnormal sensation in the lower extremities. In certain instances, symmetrical weakness is felt not only in the lower legs, but also in the arms. The upper body may also be involved and the symptoms are progressively increasing until muscle paralysis occurs. When the condition already progresses to involve the upper part of the body, the muscles for breathing may be involved, which makes the condition life threatening. Cessation of breathing occurs which accounts in the incidence of death in Guillain Barre Syndrome.

Course of the Guillain Barre Syndrome

Guillain Barre Syndrome is a rare autoimmune disease and it can equally affect both men and women. Occuring with a ratio of 1:100,000, this disease results to polyneuropathy. The condition is progressive and may manifest initially during the first few days after the symptoms of the a gastrointestinal viral infection occur. The symptoms have its progressive course that may accelerate within a few weeks. Weakness becomes severe after two weeks of the initial manifestation of the symptoms. By the third week of the disease, about 90% of the patients with Guillain Barre Syndrome experience extreme weakness.

Causes of Guillain Barre Syndrome

So little is known what causes Guillain Barre Syndrome. An accurate finding, however, involves the immune system attacking the myelin sheath of the peripheral nerves in the body. This makes Guillain Barre Syndrome an autoimmune disease. Instead of attacking foreign materials that are trying to invade the body, such as viruses and bacteria and other invading harmful microorganisms, the immune system attacks the outer covering of the axons of the nerves. The axon carries the transmission of nerve signals in the nervous system. Whenever its outer covering called the myelin sheath is attacked and destroyed by the immune system, there is a loss of transmission in the motor impulse along the nerves. As  a result, the muscles are unable to perform its functions well, owing to the lack of motor signals that stimulate it to contract and respond to the brain's command that is carried through the peripheral network. Other potential causes of Guillain Barre Syndrome include viral infection.

Diagnosing Guillain Barre Syndrome

To diagnose the condition, a physical assessment is usually undertaken while considering the pattern of weakness occurring as its symptoms. Guillain Barre Syndrome produces a classic sign of progressive weakness that usually begins from the lower or distal extremities that moves upward. It usually affects both sides of the body and may progress within weeks. Muscle weakness is a common manifestation of the disease and there are collective symptoms that occur accompanying the muscle weakness. This includes a weak reflex indicating that poor or slow signal travels along the nerve. The decreased nerve conduction velocity based on the neurological tests conducted by a doctor can be indicative of peripheral neuropathy. On many occasions, however, the early signs of the Guillain Barre Syndrome may vary from one individual to another which produces symptoms that are also overlapping with other medical conditions. The presence of muscle weakness can help provide a better medical impression that there is Guillain Barre Syndrome because its progression is faster than any other diseases, usually in a matter of days or weeks only, in contrast to the muscle weakness in other diseases that may take months.

Treatment of Guillain Barre Syndrome

The common treatment for the condition is a plasma exchange which involves the removal of the blood plasma from the blood cells in order to remove the antibodies that are attacking the nerves. Immunoglobulin therapy is also administered which involves the replacement of the antibodies from blood donors to block the antibodies attacking the nerves.

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