Guillain-Barre Syndrome
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The acute post-infective polyneuritis is also known as the Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is an acute, autoimmune, polyradiculoneuropathic disease that affects the peripheral nervous system, usually triggered off by an acute infectious process. Guillain-Barre syndrome is included in the group of peripheral neuropathies. There are several types of GBS, but generally, if not specified otherwise, GBS refers to the most common form, acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP).

This is a peripheral nervous system disease that affects the nerves of the arms, legs, head, and the trunk. But the surprising thing is that it does not affect the brain or spinal cord. In this disorder the immune system of the body attacks the peripheral nervous system.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is rare and usually occurs a few days or even weeks after the patient has had symptoms of a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. Surgery or vaccinations occasionally triggers the syndrome. This disorder develops over the course of hours or days, or it might take up to 3 to 4 weeks to develop.

About 1,500 people every year in the United Kingdom is affected by the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

French physician Jean Landry in 1859 first described this disease. Georges Guillain, Jean Alexandre Barré, and Andre Strohl diagnosed two soldiers with the illness and discovered the key diagnostic abnormality of increased spinal fluid protein production, but normal cell count in the year 1960. Thus the name of the syndrome arrives.

Causes of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre generally develops as an autoimmune reaction after an acute infection. Though this is not inherited from the family, still it is also believed that certain genetic conditions can make an individual prone to autoimmune reactions.

Symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

The Guillain-Barre syndrome can often lead to paralysis if not treated in the initia; phase. But this progression towards paralysis occurs gradually. The common symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome are as follows:

Initial symptoms





Limb pains

Later symptoms of paralysis



increasing weakness.

loss of sensation, sometimes with pain.


Since Guillain-Barré syndrome attacks a person suddenly, the effects can be devastating. The weakness strengthens in the first two weeks, and reaches its highest in the third week. The recovery period is from few weeks to few years depending on the individual’s immunity and capability top recover.

Apart from the paralysis, the other outcomes of Guillain-Barre syndrome are as follows:

Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS). This is a rare variant of GBS and manifests as a descending paralysis, proceeding in the reverse order of the more common form of GBS. This affects the eye muscles first and then descends downwards.

Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) or the Chinese Paralytic Syndrome, This is prevalent in China and Mexico.

Acute motor sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN). This is similar to AMAN but also affects the sensory nerves with severe damage.

Diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome

The diagnosis ofGuillain-Barre syndrome is done through the following tests:

Cerebrospinal fluid test (CSF)


Electrodiagnostics-electromyography (EMG)

nerve conduction study (NCS)

Treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome

Generally most people suffering from Guillain-Barre recover within three to six months of being infected. But if the paralysis spreads to the respiratory nerves controlling breathing processes, then the person needs to be put on a ventilator for survival. Though this disorder cures within short span of time generally, for some it might lead to permanent disabilities.

Detecting who is more prone to this disease is not possible, and there is no preventive methods for it. Moreover, this disease cannot be cured through medicines. However, certain therapies are there which can shorten the course of the disease for the patients and also somewhat accelerate the process of recovery. These are supportive treatments such as physiotherapy and nursing care are very important. Immunoglobulin treatments, steroids, and plasmapheresis may help in shortening the course of the disease too.

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