Guillain-Barre Syndrome

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Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder where your body’s immune system rapidly attacks your nerves. This creates weakness and tingling in your extremities, that can quickly spread. The cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown, but it is often preceded by an infectious illness, such as a respiratory infection, or the stomach flu. If you’re suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome there are several treatment options available to help ease your symptoms.

Types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is known to occur in several forms. The three main types are:

  1. Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP): This is the most common form in the United States.  A common sign of AIDP is muscle weakness that starts in the lower part of your body, eventually spreading upward.
  2. Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS): This is when paralysis begins in the eyes, which may also be accompanied with balance deficits and weakness. Miller Fisher Syndrome is also associated with an unsteady gait. It occurs in about 5% of people with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in the United States and is most common in Asia.
  3. Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN) & Acute Motor-Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN): These variations are less common in the United States, but AMAN and AMSAN are frequent in China, Japan, and Mexico. An individual with AMAN or AMSAN may experience more sensory deficits rather than weakness.

When to Call a Doctor

If you have mild tingling in your toes or fingers, that doesn’t seem to be spreading or getting worse, call your doctor. Seek medical help if you’re experiencing these signs or symptoms:

  • Tingling in your feet or toes that’s now moving up your body.
  • Difficulty catching your breath or shortness of breath when lying down.
  • Choking on saliva.
  • Tingling or weakness that is rapidly spreading.

Possible Complications

Guillain-Barre Syndrome affects your nerves, and because nerves control your movements and body functions, it’s possible for people with Guillain-Barre to experience:

Breathing Difficulties: The weakness can spread to the muscles that control your breathing. Up to 30% of people with Guillain-Barre Syndrom need temporary help from a machine to breathe while they’re receiving treatment.

Residual Numbness: Many people with Guillain-Barre Syndrome recover completely, or only have minor complications. These complications include; residual weakness, numbness or tingling.

Heart & Blood Pressure Problems: Blood pressure fluctuations and irregular heart rhythms are common side effects of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Pain: Up to half of the people who are diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome experience severe nerve pain.

Blood Clots: People who become immobile due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome are at risk of developing blood clots. Additional treatments may be recommended until you’re able to walk independently.

Bowel & Bladder Function Problems: Urine retention and slow bowel function may be a result of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Pressure Sores: If you are immobile due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, you may be at risk of developing bedsores (pressure sores), frequent repositioning can help you avoid this.

Treatment

Those who are diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome will need physical therapy before and during the recovery process. Your care may include;

  1. Movement of your arms and legs by caregivers before recovery, to keep your muscles flexible and strong.
  2. Physical therapy during recovery, to help with fatigue, and to help you regain strength and proper movement.
  3. Training with a wheelchair or brace, to give you mobility and self-care skills.

The recovery process typically takes between six and 12 months, though every patient and situation is different.

If you believe that you are suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or are looking for more information, Atlantic Physical Therapy can help! Their highly qualified physical therapists can conduct an evaluation of your symptoms and match you with the treatment that you need. Contact the experts at Atlantic Physical Therapy to schedule an appointment.