Guillain Barre Disease Information
Remember Markus Babbel, the German footballer known for his awesome playing techniques? Those who grew up watching him still remember how his career was tragically cut short by a particular illness. It was the Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) that struck Markus and deprived millions of football lovers of some greater performances from him.
What is Guillain Barre Syndrome?
This disorder was first reported in 1859 by Jean Landry, a French physician. It is a disease caused when your immune system begins to attack your own body. People suffering from this particular disorder have their Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) attacked by their own immune system. The Peripheral Nervous System connects the brain and spinal cord to all the other parts of the body. When the peripheral nerves are damaged, they find it difficult to transmit signals. The body muscles cannot connect to the brain and it results in paralysis. Person of any age can get affected by this disorder.
Guillain Barre Symptoms
The disease has its stages. The symptoms differ in different stages of the disease. Generally, the effects of the disease are felt in the lower part of the body. Patients of GBS feel a weakness or tingling sensation in their legs. It slowly begins to spread to the upper areas of the body like the arms and waist. This is often accompanied with breathing difficulties and exhaustion. Affected people find it increasingly difficult to move. Eventually, the whole body is paralyzed.
Other symptoms accompanying this disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Low grade fevers
- Pain in the back of the head
Guillain Barre Syndrome Causes
The exact cause of Guillain Barre Syndrome is not known. But research has shown that the disorder is generally caused when the myelin is inflamed and dried up. Myelin is the fatty substance made of proteins and lipids that cover some nerve fibres. The abnormality in the myelin is generally noted after a bacterial or viral infection. Many patients of this disease were found to suffer from GBS after
- A minor surgery
- Sore throat
- Stomach Flu
- Respiratory infection
However, these illnesses are not to be seen as the causes of GBS. As you know, such minor ailments are part of everyone’s life. Thankfully, most people recover normally after such illnesses. Only one or two out of 10 million people are known to suffer from the disease.
Guillain Barre Syndrome Types
There are many types of this disorder. These are:
- Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP) – The most common type of GBS, it has the immune system acting against the Schwann cell membranes.
- Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS) – Another rare variety of GBS, it has the body getting paralysed gradually from the top to the bottom.
- Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) - The immune system attacks the peripheral nerves in this particular variety of GBS. It is also known as the Chinese Paralytic Syndrome.
- Acute motor sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) – The immune system acts against the sensory nerves in this disorder.
- Acute panautonomic neuropathy – It is a very rare but lethal variety of GBS. It is characterized by dryness and itching of skin, nausea, severe constipation and abdominal pain.
- Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis (BBE) – The symptoms can include abnormalities in consciousness and paralysis of the motor nerves of the eye.
Guillain Barre Syndrome Treatment
Persons suffering from severe forms of GBS require immediate hospitalization. A combination of drugs is often used to bring the affected persons back to normalcy. The drugs popularly used to treat GBS are
Once the acute stages are over, physiotherapists and speech therapists try to bring the patient back to normalcy. In most cases, recovery can happen after a month. However, complete recovery takes a longer time, from a few months to a full year. In very rare cases, abnormalities linger for years.
So if you have a friend or a dear one suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome there is no need to worry. Recovery is possible. It is only a matter of good medication and time before the patient goes back to leading a normal life.
Written by anirudh
on October 21st, 2010. The article was last updated on September 5th, 2011