What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)? Guillain-Barré (Ghee-Yan Bah-Ray) Syndrome is a rare and serious neurological disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system. It is characterized by abnormal sensations and the rapid onset of weakness and paralysis of the legs and arms (both sides), breathing and facial muscles as well as, poor coordination; lack of reflexes; abnormal heart rate or blood pressure, blurred vision and difficulty with chewing, swallowing or speaking. GBS affects 1 – 2 in every 100,000 people per year and can develop in any person, at any age regardless of gender or ethnic background. The inflammatory disorder is not contagious or inherited and is considered potentially fatal with a mortality rate of between 3% - 7% of all persons diagnosed.
What Causes GBS? The exact cause of the syndrome is unknown but as approximately 50% of cases occur shortly after a viral or bacterial infection, current theories suggest an auto-immune mechanism mal-functions and the patient’s defense system of anti-bodies and white blood cells mistakenly attacks and damages healthy nerves.
How is GBS Diagnosed? A physical exam and a patient’s symptoms are often sufficient to indicate the diagnosis. To confirm, a lumbar puncture which detects elevated levels of protein in spinal fluid and / or electrical tests of nerve and muscle function may be performed. Working towards a future where no one afflicted with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) suffers alone www.gbs-cidp.org
What are the variants of GBS? • Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (AIDP) • Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN) • Acute Motor Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN) • Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS)
How is GBS Treated? As the progression of the disease in its early stages is unpredictable, most newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized in an intensive care unit to monitor body functions and support breathing with a mechanical ventilator if required. Care involves the use of general supportive measures for the paralyzed patient and also methods specifically designed to speed recovery. Plasmapheresis (a blood “cleansing” procedure) or high dose Intravenous Immune Globulins (IVIG) are often helpful to shorten the course of GBS.
What is the long-term prognosis with GBS? Most patients when medically stable are candidates for a physical rehabilitation program to help regain muscle strength and function. The recovery period can take a few weeks or several years with an estimated 70% of GBS sufferers making a full recovery. Approximately 15% of persons suffer long-term disabilities of varying degrees.