Important Facts about Guillain-Barré Syndrome

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People who tend to keep up with the news might have come across the report of a 63-year old former mayor of White Bear Lake Minnesota, being hospitalized for a strange disease in January this year. According to the news report, Paul Auger who was in good health suddenly woke up in the middle of the night unable to speak or move. He was paralyzed from the neck down and was immediately admitted to the intensive care unit where he had a tracheotomy to help him breathe.  

The former mayor had contracted a little-known neurological disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome. Here we will discuss the disease in a bit more detail that mostly affects senior individuals and strikes without any warning, often with fatal results.

Guillain-Barré syndrome: What is it?

Guillain-Barré is a rare disease that can affect anybody. The disorder occurs because the immune system of the body attacks the peripheral nervous system. Any individual that is afflicted with the disease initially experiences a tingling sensation and weakness in the legs. The sensation then spreads to the upper body and increases in intensity until a time comes when the muscles cannot be used at all.

The severity of the disease range from partial body paralysis to full paralysis as was the case of former Mayor Auger whereby a person cannot breathe thereby requiring surgery. After the surgery, the individual is kept on the ventilator and is closely watched until the condition stabilizes.

After the initial attack of the disease, the symptoms can persist for hours or even weeks. In most cases, the individuals have total recovery, but some continue to experience muscle weakness to one extent or another.

What’s Triggers the Disorder

The causes of Guillain-Barré disorder are not well known at the moment. The condition can develop after surgery. People infected with the Zika virus experience similar symptoms to the Guillain-Barré disorder. The sudden and unexpected onset of the disease makes it particularly devastating. Most often, the recovery is not quick.

At present, there is no known cure for the condition. Therapies can lessen the seriousness of the disorder and can accelerate the recovery process. In addition, certain medical techniques can be used to lessen the complication of the disease.  

Plasmapheresis (also known as plasma exchange) and immunoglobulin therapy are two effective techniques that can help lessen the intensity of the disorder.

In plasma exchange, the blood is removed from the body and then re-injected after separating the red and white blood cells. In contrast, immunoglobulin therapy consists of administering intravenous injections of the proteins. Injection of the protein in the body has found to decrease the severity of the immune attack. Both the techniques are generally used in conjunction to help accelerate the recovery process.  

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