Guillain Barre Syndrome also called guillain-barre is a rare and serious condition where the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The exact cause of Guillain Barre Syndrome is unknown however this serious disorder usually appears days or weeks after a respiratory or digestive tract infection has occurred.
There can be a rapid onset of symptoms which usually start with changes in sensation in the feet and hands. This leads to a a numbing, tingling or pain in the limbs. The numbness and tingling usually begins in the legs before it spreads. The numbing and tingling can spread to the arms and gets worse over the course of a few weeks. In one in five people the symptoms progress and can spread to the neck, cranial nerves head and face. This can lead to difficulty in swallowing.Furthermore further issues can arise such as weakness in the eye muscles as well as weakness in the muscles that control the face. Guillain Barre Syndrome also involves symptoms of pain including back pain, pain in the muscles and pain in the head and neck. This can also be accompanied by painful tingling. It is very rare for the bladder muscles to be affected but there is a slight possibility of this occurring. Further rare issues that may arise include severe drowsiness, sleepiness and in very severe, rare cases a coma.
These symptoms stop progressing and enter a plateau phase. The length of this phase can vary and ranges from two days to six months however on average it lasts for approximately one week. The symptoms in children can be difficult to distinguish from other viral infections making it difficult to treat.
Upon a neurological examination weak reflexes can be seen as well as some absent reflexes due to the severe weakness in the muscles. There can also be exaggerated reflexes in the arms and legs. Severe cases of guillain-barre can lead to respiratory failure. This serious issue occurs in approximately one quarter of people with this syndrome. The weakness of the breathing muscles can lead to low levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood which can lead to a possible life threatening condition. Further issues can arise from this such as pneumonia, blood clots, and bleeding of the digestive tract. These issues lead to artificial ventilation treatment in order to combat the respiratory issues.
Furthermore, autonomic dysfunction is involved with about two thirds of people with guillain-barre. However only about twenty percent of affected people experience severe heart and blood pressure issues. In this twenty percent, the heart rate can be severely affected leading to large fluctuations in heart rate. An irregular heartbeat can also arise as in severe cases a pacemaker may be needed to control the heartbeat. In addition, the blood pressure can fluctuate greatly causing dizziness and fainting. The pupils may not react to changes in light and this can cause severe eye irritation.