Guillain Barre syndrome is a disease that affects the peripheral nervous system. The disease has a rapid onset. It occurs as a result of damage of the peripheral nerves by the body immune system. Some of the signs and symptoms of this disease include the weakness of the muscles, especially in the extremities, such as the feet and the hands. This weakness can also spread to other parts of the body, like the arms and the upper body, which might paralyze the various parts of the body. This disease can be life-threatening, if not well managed. Other symptoms of the disease include the impairment of the functions of the autonomic nervous system. This can cause a dysfunction in the respiratory and cardiovascular system. The exact cause of this disease isn’t known yet, although autoimmunity has been identified as the mechanism behind the disease. The immune system fails to identify the peripheral nerves as the body cells, and proceeds to attack them. This leads to the destruction of the nerves, and also the myelin sheath that covers them. Some of the factors that could trigger this disease include infections, surgery, and vaccination, although this is uncommon. Physicians diagnose Guillain Barre syndrome based on the signs and symptoms presented by the patient. Other tests that are useful in detecting this disease include nerve conduction studies and the evaluation of the cerebrospinal fluid. This disease is treated by intravenous immunoglobulins or plasmapheresis. Neuropathy treatment can also be done, to improve the strength of the muscles. This is usually done in addition to supportive care.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Guillain Barre Syndrome?
Guillain Barre syndrome usually starts with the development of the weakness and tingling sensations in the lower extremity. This would eventually spread from the feet and legs to other parts of the body. As earlier mentioned, they spread to the upper body and arms. Studies have shown that about 50% of cases experience symptoms that begins from the face or the arms, before spreading to other parts of the body. The syndrome worsens as the disease progresses. This disease can eventually develop into paralysis. Below are some of the signs and symptoms of the disease;
- Respiratory system: This disease causes the weakness of the muscles that are needed for breathing. This is why people affected by this disease might experience respiratory failure. The patient is not able to breathe well, which would lead to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood. Other respiratory conditions that could be associated with Guillain Barre syndrome include pneumonia, infections, development of blood clots in the lungs, and so on.
- Autonomic nervous system dysfunction: This disease affects the autonomic nervous system. This impairs body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and so on. Symptoms presented by patients might vary, depending on what part of the body is affected. Some other conditions that are associated with Guillain Barre syndrome include arrhythmias, the abnormal reactivity of the pupils, and so on.
Some of the general symptoms of the disease include the following;
- Tingling sensation in the extremities. This mostly affects the fingers, toes and the wrist.
- The patient might experience the weakness of the legs, which would eventually spread to the upper body.
- The patient might find it difficult to walk normally. They might also find it difficult climbing staircases.
- Tachycardia: This is a condition in which patients experience an increased heart rate.
- Abnormal blood pressure: People affected by Guillain Barre syndrome usually do experience an abnormal blood pressure. This might be hypotension or hypertension.
- Trouble breathing: As earlier mentioned, this disease affects the muscles needed for breathing. This causes the patient to have difficulty in breathing.
- Urinary incontinence: Patient often finds it difficult controlling their bladder. In addition to this, they might also have an impairment with their bowel function.
- Discomfort in the chewing and swallowing: Patients might have difficulties with their eye movements. In addition to this, they might find it difficult swallowing and chewing.
What Are The Types Of Guillain Barre Syndrome?
There are different types of Guillain Barre syndrome, some of the main ones are;
- Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy: This is the most prevalent type, especially in the United States. Patients do present with the weakness of the muscles, especially in the lower parts of the body, before spreading upwards.
- Miller Fisher Syndrome: This type of Guillain Barre Syndrome usually starts in the eyes. Other conditions associated with this type include abnormal gait. This type of Guillain Barre syndrome is more prevalent in Asia.
- Acute Motor axonal neuropathy: This type of Guillain Barre syndrome is common in countries like Japan, Mexico, and China.
When Is It Important To Go See A Physician?
You should consult your physician when you start feeling a tingling sensation in your fingers or toes. You should go see your doctor if you experience any of the following;
- Difficulty swallowing your saliva, or even choking on your saliva.
- Difficulty in walking
- Difficulty with breathing. As mentioned above, this occurs as a result of the weakness of the muscles associated with breathing.
What Are The Causes Of Guillain Barre Syndrome?
The exact cause of this disease is not known yet. However, autoimmunity has been identified as the mechanism behind the disease. The body immune system fails to recognize the peripheral nerves and proceeds to attack them. This leads to the damage of the nerves, and also the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. Guillain Barre syndrome usually occurs after an infection. This could be respiratory or digestive. Recent vaccinations can also lead to the development of this disease. The disease has also been associated with the dreaded Zika virus.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Guillain Barre Syndrome?
There are some factors that increase the risk of developing this disease. Some of these factors include the following;
- Gender: This disease tends to occur more in men than in women.
- Age: It also occurs more in young adults.
How Is Guillain Barre Syndrome Treated?
The two main types of treatment for this disease include plasmapheresis and immunoglobulin therapy.
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