Other Names: Acute autoimmune peripheral neuropathy; GBS; acute immune-mediated polyneuropathy; acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy; acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy; cute inflammatory neuropathy; acute inflammatory polyneuropathy; Landry-Guillain-Barre-Strohl syndrome; Landry’s ascending paralysis; post-infective polyneuritis; Guillain-Barré-Strohl syndrome 

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare syndrome in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms of GBS include muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling sensations, which can increase in intensity until the muscles cannot be used at all.

The exact cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome is unknown. In most cases, GBS occurs a few days or weeks after symptoms of a viral infection.

 

Pathophysiology and Epidemiology

Mutations in a particular gene are not known to be associated with GBS. In most cases, a person who has GBS is the only person that has been affected in the family. In some cases, people who develop GBS report that they were sick with a gastrointestinal or upper respiratory illness a few days or weeks before the symptoms of GBS began. These infections have been linked to viruses such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, flu virus, or Zika virus or bacteria such as Campylobacter jejuni. However, only a small number of people who have these infections develop GBS.  

There are case reports that suggest a link between GBS and certain medications or surgical procedures. However, a definitive association between medications or surgery and GBS has not been established.

 

Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of GBS include: 

  • Autoimmunity 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations

Other symptoms of GBS can include 

  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Facial drop
  • Double vision
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Changes in eye movements

GBS can affect people of any age. The first symptoms of GBS typically begin in the lower legs. The symptoms can then spread to the muscles of the upper body. Typically, the symptoms continue to worsen over the first 2-3 weeks after they first begin. 

 

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of GBS is suspected when a person has signs and symptoms consistent with the syndrome. Doctors may identify symptoms such as muscle weakness on both sides of the body that starts from the lower leg muscles and spreads upwards. Doctors may also look for other signs of GBS such as relatively rapid progression of symptoms and loss of muscle reflexes.

Tests can be completed to confirm a diagnosis of GBS and rule out other diseases that can cause muscle weakness. These tests may include nerve conduction velocity tests to measure how quickly signals are being sent through the peripheral nervous system. An electromyogram (EMG) may be ordered to determine if the muscles are responding to signals correctly. A lumbar puncture may also be ordered, as people with GBS have high levels of protein in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the spine.

 

Management and Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). However, symptoms of the syndrome can be improved with treatments including plasma exchange therapy and immunoglobulin therapy. Both of these therapies can help prevent the immune system from continuing to attack the peripheral nervous system. In some cases, corticosteroids have been used to try to alleviate symptoms of GBS. However, it has not been proven that steroids can help speed recovery.

People who have GBS may be admitted to the hospital for treatment and to reduce the risk of complications. In some cases, other treatments may be necessary to prevent complications of GBS including pain medications and heparin to reduce the risk of blood clots. Some people with GBS may require help breathing with a ventilator. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy may be recommended to help people fully recover from GBS.

 

Clinical Trials

For a full list of clinical trials relating to GBS, go here.

 

Resources

GBS/CIDP Foundation International 

Guillain-Barré Syndrome Survivors Facebook Group

Guillain-Barré Syndrome – NORD

Guillain-Barré Syndrome – NIH

 

For even more information, visit checkrare.com/diseases/autoimmune