Guillain-Barré Syndrome

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Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. The initial symptoms are usually characterised by tingling and weakness in your extremities (feet and hands).

These symptoms can spread rapidly – eventually paralysing your entire body. Paralysis is a medical emergency. When your body becomes paralysed, seek immediate medical care at the hospital near you. 

Causes of Guillain-Barré syndrome

The exact cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome is unknown. However, it is often found in patients with autoimmune disorders; a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. Autoimmune diseases are often triggered by infectious diseases such as respiratory infections or gastroenteritis (stomach flu) caused by campylobacter jejuni.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria are often found in undercooked foods, especially chicken.

Other infections associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome are influenza, cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus, mycoplasma pneumonia, and HIV.

When to see a Doctor for Guillain-Barré Syndrome

It is recommended that you consult a neurologist if you experience symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome. A neurologist will be able to confirm the symptoms – as this disease has similar symptoms with acute myelopathy. Once the neurologist confirms the symptoms, you will get the appropriate medical treatment required.

Diagnosis

The neurologist of your choice will conduct a comprehensive medical history interview, physical tests that include your neurological status and other necessary tests.

Additional tests may include: 

  • Spinal tap or lumbar puncture,
  • Electromyography, and
  • Nerve conduction study

The three additional tests are performed to ensure that the patient’s symptoms are not caused by other neurological diseases such as botulism, meningitis or heavy metal poisoning (arsenic, mercury and lead).

Second Opinion

Although one neurologist’s diagnosis can distinguish the symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome from other diseases, you may also seek an additional diagnosis from another neurologist.

Smarter Health can help by recommending suitable neurologists, checking on your selected neurologist’s schedule as well as with booking an appointment.

Symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Symptoms of this syndrome are characterized by tingling and weakness from the legs which then spread to the upper body and the arms. However, there are some patients whose symptoms start from the arm or face.

As Guillain-Barré syndrome progresses, the muscle weakness can lead to paralysis.

Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome include:

  • Prickling sensation in the toes, ankles or hands.
  • Weakness in your legs that spreads to your upper body
  • Inability to walk steady or climb stairs.
  • Difficulty breathing, speaking, chewing or swallowing, and moving your eyes and face.
  • Pain, soreness or cramping that often occurs at night.
  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Too low or too high blood pressure

A person with Guillain-Barré syndrome usually experiences the worst conditions between 2-4 weeks after symptoms appear.

Treatment for Guillain-Barré Syndrome

There is no exact cure for treating Guillain-Barré syndrome. However, there are several treatments that can relieve symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness to help patients return to normal activities.

The average rate for patients to recover is between 6 and 12 months of treatment. Few patients will experience persistent numbness and fatigue, and it may take years for them to fully recover,

Treatment Cost for Guillain-Barré Syndrome

The cost for Guillain-Barré syndrome treatment is usually determined after the doctor identifies your condition. Smarter Health can help you find neurologists and hospitals within your budget.

Prevention of Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Avoiding consumption of undercooked chicken can reduce the risk of developing this syndrome – as it is the type of food most prone to contain campylobacter bacteria; bacteria that are closely related to the onset of this syndrome.

Routine vaccinations can also help protect you from the following viruses: 

  • Influenza virus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Zika virus
  • Hepatitis A, B, C and E
  • HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma

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