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429E GuillainBarre Syndrome 2007

429E GuillainBarre Syndrome 2007

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Published by aldermac
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)

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Published by: aldermac on Jan 16, 2010
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Updated September 2007Page 1 of 3
www.muscle.ca 1.866.MUSCLE.8
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
Emotional reactions are commonly experienced due to the sudden onsetof symptoms, the degree of disability and the level of dependence thatmay accompany this disorder. People affected with GBS need clear andhonest explanations about the disease and what is happening to them. Ifthey are unable to speak, efforts to help them communicate will likely easethe frustration they may be experiencing. Moral support throughout thecourse of the disorder is of utmost importance.
What is Guillain-Barré syndrome?
Guillain-Barré syndrome is an inflammatory disorder of the peripheralnerves (nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord) which areattacked by the body's own immune system. It is characterized by rapidand progressive muscle weakness. It affects nerves that signal muscles tocontract and may impair one's ability to walk, write, breathe, talk, etc. InGBS, the damaged nerves are unable, to varying degrees, to perform theirfunctions correctly.GBS can develop over a period of hours, days orweeks. GBS most often follows a viral or bacterialinfection, but pregnancy, surgery or vaccinationsmay trigger the disorder in rare instances.
What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barrésyndrome?
Initial symptoms may be abnormal or decreasedsensations in the lower limbs which progress tonumbness and tingling. Many people experiencesevere back pain. Weakness in the legs and armsaffects both sides equally. It is this symmetricalweakness that helps differentiate GBS from otherdisorders. Other common complaints include muscleaching and cramping, shortness of breath andbieralfacial drooping (palsy). Severity of symptomscan vary greatly from person to person. Somepeople experience symptoms that are so mild,individuals may not even seek medical attention. Inother cases, affected persons may experienceprofound weakness and almost complete paralysis,including the muscles of respiration.
Who can be affected by Guillain-Barrésyndrome?
This disorder can affect anyone. It can occur at anyage and to persons of either sex. The incidencetends to increase with age, so that GBS is mostcommon in people who are 50 to 80 years old. It isconsidered a rare disorder, with an incidence ofapproximately 2-3 cases per 100,000 people perear.
What causes Guillain-Barré syndrome?
In Guillain-Barré syndrome, for reasons that arecurrently unknown, the body's immune systembegins to attack the body itself. In this case, thefocus of the attack is the myelin sheath thatsurrounds the axons of nerve cells and sometimes,the axons themselves.
Updated September 2007Page 2 of 3
www.muscle.ca 1.866.MUSCLE.8
How does Guillain-Barré syndrome progress?
The onset of symptoms is rapid, progressing steadily for a period of daysto weeks. The symptoms will then stabilize at this level for a period ofdays to weeks to even months. The next phase, known as the recoveryphase, is also variable among affected persons. This phase may last froma few weeks to months. At the end of the recovery phase, individuals mayexperience complete recovery from the disorder, or they may experiencesome degree of weakness that does not resolve.
How is Guillain-Barré syndrome diagnosed?
Diagnosis can sometimes be difficult. This is especially true in the earlystages because of the variability from one person to another of both thesymptoms and the severity of those symptoms. As well, several otherdisorders have similar symptoms that may be mistaken for GBS.A detailed history is the first step to diagnosis, followed by a completephysical examination. A nerve conduction velocity test can alert thephysician to slowness of signals traveling along the nerve pathways. Aspinal tap may be done to examine the cerebrospinal fluid forabnormalities. Reflexes are often absent in GBS, so careful testing of thereflexes is useful. Lastly, muscle strength testing will evaluate muscleweakness.
Is there a treatment or cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome?
Guillain-Barré syndrome is self-limiting. There are treatments availablethat may lessen the severity of the disorder and speed up the recovery.Plasmapheresis is a treatment that is commonly used. Whole blood isremoved from the body and red and white blood cells are separated fromthe plasma. The blood cells are then returned to the body. The plasmaportion of the blood that is removed is thought to contain elements thatplay a part in the improper functioning of the immune response. Plasma-pharesis tends to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms forreasons that are not totally understood. It is found to be most beneficialwhen used early in the course of the disorder.High doses of immunoglobulin are administered intravenously (IVIG) topatients in another treatment for GBS aimed at decreasing the severity ofthe symptoms. It is now felt to be as beneficial to patients with GBS asplasmapheresis and because it is easier to give, it is often the treatment ofchoice. The immunoglobulin therapy is thought to alter the immuneresponse and prevent the attack on the nerves.Assisted ventilation is required in severe cases of GBS where therespiratory system is affected. This ensures proper functioning of apatient's lungs and airway during the acute and recovery phases of theillness.Occupational therapy is a valuable part of the treatment program in therehabilitation stage of the illness. Exercises to strengthen arms and handsare used and many activities of daily living are relearned with the help ofan Occupational Therapist.

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