The symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome paper

Guillain-Barre syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a neurological disorder in which a person’s immune defense system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The part of the nerves attacked is the network of nerves which are located outside the brain and the spinal cord. Owing to the attack, the myelin which is the nerve insulation and at times the axon which is the inner covered part of the nerve are both damaged which changes and even delays the signals that originate from them. The antibodies produced during such an event later attack the myelin sheath as well as the axon causing paralysis and muscular weakness. The affected victim may as well experience strange sensations and the sensory nerves of the skin may also be affected. The resultant effects of GBS can, however, range from a very mild effect like a brief period of weakness to very lethal conditions like severe paralysis which can leave the affected individual unable to breathe by himself ( Fortunately, recovery for most people with the most severe cases of GBS is possible though after recovery some people will continue to suffer from some degree of weakness. The exact cause of GBS is yet to be discovered and why it still attacks some while sparing others baffles medical scientists, however, it is a condition that can still be treated by medications that helps relieve victims of pain.

where it affects

Guillain-Barre syndrome tends to mainly affect the feet, hands, and limbs by affecting the nerves hence the numbness, pain, and weakness that victims feel after such an attack. The damage of the myelin sheaths which functions to carry axonal nerve impulses results in the inability of the nerves to send information to the spinal cord and the brain and this causes the sensation of numbness. Additionally, the brain and the spinal cord fail to transmit signals to the rest of the body leading to the noticed muscle weakness. Though the exact cause of this disease is not known, what is known by the medical scientists and researchers is that the immune system of the affected person begins to attack the body by itself. It is believed that in some cases, this attack by the immune system is initiated with an intention of fighting an infection and since some chemicals found on bacteria and virus are similar to those found on nerve cells, the nerves also become targets of attack. In normal situations, the immune system uses antibodies (molecules released in an immune response) and special white blood cells which both protect the body by attacking the infecting bacteria and viruses. However, in Guillain-Barre syndrome, the immune system will mistakenly attack the healthy nerves ( Thus, the body’s own immune system is responsible for doing the damage to the nerves hence GBS is called an autoimmune disease “auto” meaning “self.”

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The symptoms of GBS occur mostly following periods after infection to the body. A mild viral infection resembling flu or gastroenteritis or in some cases after a bacterial infection usually trigger symptoms that begin within a few days or even weeks after the infection. The onset of the symptoms tends to develop quickly over a short period usually causing the most severe cases of weakness within the first 2 to 3 weeks after the first symptoms are noticed ( GBS affects around 1 in 100,000 people in the United States alone. It does not discriminate as it can affect any person regardless of age or gender although it tends to be more prevalent amongst older people and males. When GBS was initially discovered, it was thought to be a single condition but it is currently thought to take a variety of forms. The three most common varieties are: acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP) which is a common type in the U.S., Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS) which occurs in about 5 to 10 percent of GBS cases in the U.S. and Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) and acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) which is rare in the U.S. but common in Japan, China and Mexico (
The symptoms of the disease usually start in the feet or the legs and advance over the body over a period of days and weeks. A victim will usually feel a tingling sensation and weakness in their feet and legs and then it spreads upwards until the whole body is affected. Children often show symptoms that manifest in their difficulty with walking and may even refuse to walk owing to the pain. The initial sensations might disappear before the onset of the major and long-term symptoms. Weakness felt on both sides of the body is a primary symptom which causes a majority of people to seek medical attention. For some, this weakness might be felt with difficulty in climbing the stairs or walking. The symptoms can also affect the arms, the muscles associated with breathing, even facial muscles which is but a reflection of the wide-spreading nerve damage ( For a majority of victims, the greatest stage of weakness is within the first two weeks after the first symptoms appear and by the third week after onset, the affected individuals are at their weakest. Other than muscle weakness, other symptoms include: difficulty with vision owing to the affected eye muscles; difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking; pricking sensations like pins and needles in the hands and the feet; severe pain especially at night; problems with coordination and unsteadiness; abnormal heart rate or blood pressure; and problems with digestion and/or bladder control. These symptoms tend to increase in intensity over hours, days or weeks until particular muscles are rendered unusable and when severe the affected person is totally paralyzed. When the individual is paralyzed, the disorder is life-threatening as it interferes with breathing and also with blood pressure or heart rate (
Owing to the severity and likelihood of total paralysis as a result of this condition, early diagnosis and treatment are necessary. It is advised that when one notices any of the early symptoms of GBS like numbness or weakness, that they should seek medical attention. Also when one cannot move their limbs or face, has difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing and when they faint and do not regain consciousness within two minutes it is recommended that an ambulance is called for. The diagnosis of GBS is at times difficult especially in its early stages owing to the fact that the initial signs and symptoms of the disease are varied and also there are a number of disorders that show similar symptoms. Physicians will, however, try to identify whether the symptoms are on both sides of the body which is typical of the syndrome and will also note the speed with which the symptoms appear for in other disorders muscle weakness may progress over months which is different since GBS symptoms tend to progress over days or weeks. Physicians may take advantage of the fact that deep tendon reflexes in the legs like knee jerks are usually lost while diagnosing GBS. Since the signals traveling along the nerve are usually slow owing to the nerve damage by GBS, a nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) can be carried out which measures the nerve’s ability to send signals. Additionally, there is a change in the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain in people affected by GBS and this fluid has more protein than usual but a lower number of immune cells. Therefore, a physician during diagnosis may perform a spinal tap or lumbar puncture so as to obtain a sample of the fluid for analysis ( There is no known cure for GBS however several therapies exist that can help lessen the severity of the illness and shorten the recovery time. Individuals with Guillain-Barre syndrome are usually admitted and treated in hospital’s intensive care unit because of the possible complications of muscle weakness and the problems that tend to affect paralyzed persons like pneumonia or bed sores and also the need for sophisticated medical equipment (


In conclusion, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare autoimmune condition that affects the nerves. It mainly affects the feet, hands and the limbs hence causing problems like weakness, numbness, and pain. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks a part of the peripheral nervous system which is a network of nerves found outside the brain and the spinal cord. The effects of GBS can range from a very mild case of weakness to the more severe paralysis. Though there is no established cause of GBS it is thought to occur after the onset of infection to the body. GBS has no existing cure though treatment is possible and medication as well to relieve the pain associated with the condition.

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