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Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare condition characterized by the demyelination of nerves throughout the peripheral nervous system, the network of nerves around the brain and spinal cord. In the same way rubber insulates metal wire, myelin coats axons, the long section of nerve cells. This condition causes poor nerve function because the nerve cell’s signaling capacity is lowered due to the erosion of the myelin sheath by the immune system.
There are three main types of the condition:
Although the exact cause of GBS is unclear, symptoms of GBS are known to develop after complications from respiratory or digestive tract infections. According to the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, approximately 50 percent of cases involving AIPD happen after a viral or bacterial infection. The CDC identifies the following bacterial and viral infections as common triggers for GBS: Campylobacter jejuni, mycoplasm pnemoniae, influenza viruses, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and Zika virus. According to the “Campylobacter jejuni Infection and Guillain–Barré Syndrome,” by Jeremy H. Rees, et. al., in the New England journal of Medicine, more than a quarter of Guillain–Barré Syndrome patients were shown to have had a Campylobacter jejuni infection recently. In a separate study, reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 60 to 70 percent of cases with AMAN are associated with bacterial infections from Campylobacter jejuni, a common forborne pathogen found in raw poultry products like chicken. The CDC suspects that one person in 1000 who contracts Campylobacter jejuni will develop GBS.
Although it is rare (with 1 case in 100,000), an estimated 3-6 thousand people will develop GBS this year.
Because initial symptoms can resemble other neurological conditions, obtaining a diagnostic for GBS is difficult in the early stages of the condition. Physicians note the speed of which symptoms appear, the responsiveness of deep tendon reflexes in the legs, and any changes in cerebrospinal fluid. Some tests to aid in the diagnostics include:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke identify the initial symptoms as “unexplained sensations, such as tingling in the feet or hands, or even pain (especially in children), often starting in the legs or back” There are a host of different symptoms that GBS can bring about in a person. They are all related to damaged nerves throughout a person’s body. The symptoms include:
Due to the various symptoms, there is also a list of side effects that can occur as a result of the person being unable to walk or move around. These complications can include:
This condition can result in death if it is severe enough to affect the person’s heart (causing a heart attack) or the ability to breathe.
What is the treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
This condition requires immediate medical attention and hospitalization. It is the type of condition that can spread quickly and time is of the essence in order to mitigate the effects. The faster that treatment can commence, the better the prognosis will be. There is no prescribed cure but there are treatments that can reduce the effects and allow a person to begin to recover.
A majority of people who contract Guillain-Barre Syndrome are able to recover fully. Although GBS is a temporary condition, there is a chance that there may be some lasting effects from the damage that was done to the nerves of the body. There is a chance of some lasting pain or tingling in the extremities. Full recovery within a year is common, but according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, recovery may be incomplete in about 15 percent of individuals. These individuals may experience long-term weakness.
 Gabriel CM Prognosis in the acute motor axonal form of Guillain–Barré syndrome
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2005;76:622. https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/76/5/622.citation-tools