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Guillain-Barré Syndrome: A Complete Guide to Symptoms and Treatments

Guillain-Barré Syndrome: A Complete Guide to Symptoms and Treatments

Guillain-Barré syndrome is currently affecting about 3,000 people in the United States. Though it is rare, early symptoms of Guillain-Barré can be hard to spot. Being aware of them can help diagnose the disease early.

Treatment for Guillain-Barré works best when administered two weeks after symptoms have begun. If you start to notice the signs, you’ll need to see a doctor right away.

With treatment, many people affected by the condition can return to their normal lives after a few weeks or up to a year.

Please continue to read our complete guide to Guillain-Barré syndrome.

What Is Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a neurological condition that affects your immune system. In healthy people, the immune system fights foreign bacteria. Guillain-Barré syndrome makes the immune system fight a person’s nerves.

When Guillain-Barré syndrome damages one’s healthy nerves, they begin to lose feeling in parts of their body. Their muscles can become weak, and they will start feeling tingly and numb.

What Causes Guillain-Barré Syndrome

This is a rare disease, with only a few thousand people developing Guillain-Barré syndrome symptoms each year. Most often, the disease is contracted by middle-aged people, but you can be diagnosed at any point.

The exact cause of this condition is unknown. Guillain-Barré syndrome is always triggered by a viral or bacterial illness. It can be triggered by diseases such as the Zika virus or Epstein-Barr virus.

It is not contagious or passed down through families. Almost anyone can become ill with Guillain-Barré even if they showed no prior signs of it.

To become diagnosed with this disease, a healthcare provider will first assess your symptoms. Then, they may need to run tests to rule out similar conditions. A spinal tap usually determines the final diagnosis.

Symptoms of Guillain-Barré

The symptoms of Guillain-Barré can range dramatically from patient to patient. Typically, people with Guillain-Barré display the following symptoms.

  • Weakness in feet and leg muscles
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Back pain
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Heart rate problems
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Difficulty with bladder control
  • Double vision

The symptoms of Guillain-Barré come on slowly. Usually, weakness in the feet and leg muscles will creep upwards until they reach the neck and face as well.

However, it is not uncommon for symptoms to start from the top of the body and work their way down to the feet. Severe cases of Guillain-Barré can be life-threatening when the person can’t breathe or swallow.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatment

There is no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome yet. As of now, patients with Guillain-Barré undergo rehabilitative treatment to manage their symptoms.

Guillain Barre syndrome treatment is always performed in a hospital setting as complications can be deadly. IVIg and plasmapheresis are the most common treatments for this disease.

Plasmapheresis or plasma exchange helps patients by first taking some of their blood. Then the plasma is returned once the bad antibodies attacking the nerves have been mostly removed.

IVIg or immunoglobulin therapy involves injections of immunoglobulins from healthy donors. These injections can help deter the immune attack caused by Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Both of these treatments have worked well on many people with Guillain-Barré syndrome. They can help manage symptoms and shorten recovery time when the syndrome is caught early enough.

Learn More About Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a life-altering disease for most people. People with the condition often struggle to do their daily tasks, and treatment can be expensive. Learning about Guillain-Barré syndrome can increase awareness.

Would you like to read more about health conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome? Check out the rest of our health page for articles similar to this one.

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