The Guillain-Barré syndrome is a neurological disorder in which the immune system of the body itself attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Its exact cause is unknown, but it has been seen to sometimes occur after a viral infection, such as gastroenteritis or cold symptoms. It can affect any age and sex.
The immune system cells begin to attack the myelin sheaths around the axons of the nerve fibre and sometimes the axons themselves. Thus, the nerves cannot transmit signals efficiently, and muscles begin to lose their ability to respond to brain commands. Its onset may be sudden or develop over days or weeks. The first symptoms are muscle weakness and numbness in the feet or hands, which may progress rapidly to the body. In more severe cases, respiratory muscles may also be affected and artificial respiration may be required.
As for the evolution of this disease, it is known that after the appearance of the first symptoms, the condition tends to worsen during about two weeks, reaching a phase of stability that is maintained between two and four weeks. Then, a phase of gradual recovery begins, which lasts for months.
There is no cure at present, but there are two treatments that can speed recovery: plasmapheresis (is a procedure that removes antibodies from the blood) and intravenous immunoglobulin (healthy antibodies block disease-causing antibodies).
After the initial phase, in which the patient has received treatment and the possible medical complications have been stabilised, it is very important receive rehabilitation treatment in a specialized center in which from an interdisciplinary approach can work in the recovery of those lost functions.
References about Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Arcila-Londono X, Lewis RA. Guillain-Barré syndrome. Semin Neurol. 2012. Jul;32(3):179-86. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1329196. Epub 2012 Nov 1. Review. PubMed. PMID: 23117942.
- Vucic S, Kiernan MC, Cornblath DR. Guillain-Barré syndrome: an update. J Clin. Neurosci. 2009 Jun;16(6):733-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2008.08.033. Epub 2009 Apr. 7. Review. PubMed PMID: 19356935.
- Hughes RA, Cornblath DR. Guillain-Barré syndrome. Lancet. 2005 Nov. 5;366(9497):1653-66. Review. PubMed PMID: 16271648.