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Guillain Barre Syndrome is a relatively rare medical condition affecting the nerves beyond the brain and spinal cord. It yields a degree of paralysis which can be frightening for some people. It affects around 1-2 people out of 100,000 and is something that a person can have and can fully recover from after a period of time. Guillain Barre disease is an autoimmune disease and occurs when the immune system attacks nervous tissue. It is common in the ageing population but can occur in young people as well.

Guillain Barre attacks the peripheral nerves of the body. Peripheral nerves can be motor or sensory so that, when affected, both the sensation of an individual and the motor function of the individual are damaged. The signals of the nerves are interrupted so that there is paralysis and loss of sensory function. The arms and legs can both be affected by the disease process. It can affect the chest muscles so that the individual doesn't have the ability to breathe on their own and need temporary respiratory support via a ventilator.

While the cause of Guillain Barre Syndrome is believed to be an autoimmune disease, there is no particular reason why some people get it and others do not. Half of all cases seem to follow a bacterial or viral illness, such as diarrhea or a sore throat. Some minor surgeries or vaccinations have been linked to getting GBS after the situation is over with. It is, however, the rare person that gets Guillain Barre disease following these conditions.

The signs and symptoms of Guillain Barre disease include a rapid (over two weeks time) paralysis, weakness or tingling of the legs. The sensations start peripherally and move up the body, including up the arms, legs and trunk. The person may feel tired all the time and can lose their reflexes as during a physical examination. The symptoms progress until there is full body paralysis and the person is hospitalized for cares and respiratory support.

The diagnosis of Guillain Barre disease is made by the history and physical examination. The ascending paralysis is one feature of the disease and it usually affects both sides of the body. There can be diminished or absent reflexes on examination and the disease is usually progressive. Tests which are done to see if the disease is Guillain Barre or another disease includes an electromyogram or EMG and a nerve conduction velocity test, which studies the way the nerves work. If the nerve conduction velocity test is abnormal, the disease may be Guillain Barre.

The treatment of Guillain Barre disease is usually supportive because the person usually gets better on their own. The person may need to be hospitalized in an intensive care unit due to respiratory problems and the need for a respirator. They need to be supported with eating, drinking and personal cares.

Plasmapheresis is another treatment for Guillain Barre disease. The plasma is withdrawn from the blood and processed so that the red and white blood cells only are returned to the body. The autoantibodies are removed from the body, which improves the symptoms. Another therapy includes immunoglobulin therapy. This means putting in healthy antibodies which block and replace the dangerous autoantibodies. The length of hospital stay depends on how long it takes to treat the disease, which may be just a few days or a few weeks.

It takes weeks to fully recover from Guillain Barre disease. The individual may need to be in a wheelchair for a while and may need to use a walker or crutches to get around for several weeks or months. Physical therapy may be required in order to get the body to move properly after an episode of the disease. It can be an emotionally debilitating disease so that the person needs counselling or therapy to deal with the emotional ramifications of having this debilitating disease.

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Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Guillain-Barre Syndrome solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Guillain-Barre Stndrome solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here