GUILLAIN BARRE SYNDROME (GBS)
What is Guillian-Barre Syndrome?
Guillian (pronounced as Gee-aan) Barre (pronounced as Bar-e) Syndrome is a disease in which the hands and legs suddenly lose power and become weak. Patient suffering from this disease are unable to move their limbs. Guillian Barre syndrome is also called as GBS in short.
How does GBS occur?
The exact cause is not known. But it is postulated that after a throat infection or diarrhea or post vaccine, the bodyís immune system undergoes a change and the bodyís own immunity starts attacking the nerves that supply the limbs leading to weakness of the muscles.
Who can get GBS?
GBS can occur in anyone. However who may get it is not known. Not all individuals who suffer from infection or had a vaccine shot get GBS. It depends on the patientís immune system and how the immune system reacts to these factors. Thus, one cannot predict who is more prone to get GBS.
What are the symptoms of GBS?
Symptoms of Guillian Barre syndrome consist of tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes with progressive weakness in the arms and legs in next few days. Patient may feel difficulty in walking, standing, sitting, raising their hands, feeding and even buttoning. In some patients, weakness may not progress further whereas in some the weakness may progress further and even cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
How is the diagnosis of GBS made?
Most of the times, diagnosis of GBS is made by clinical symptoms and examination. Sometimes, diagnosis may be confusing and tests such as nerve conduction studies (NCV) and lumbar puncture may be done to establish diagnosis. Stool tests may be done to exclude poliomyelitis as polio also causes similar symptoms.
What is the treatment of GBS?
In most patients, GBS recovers on its own. In some patients, where weakness is progressing, treatment in form of immunoglobulin or plasmapharesis is required to halt the progression of the disease. Patients who have difficulty in breathing may need to be kept on ventilators and those who have difficulty in feeding may need to be fed by tube inserted into the stomach through the mouth or nose. Physiotherapy helps to restore strength in the muscles.
What are the complications of GBS?
Most of the times, GBS is self limiting. However in some patients, symptoms may persist for a long time and disease may become chronic and lead to a condition called as CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy). In patients with CIDP, weakness may follow a longer course but breathing problem usually does not arise. Patients with CIDP may need treatment with plasmapharesis, immunoglobulin or steroids.
Sometimes, GBS can recur for the second time.
How long does it take for recovery to occur in GBS?
Usually total recovery takes 2-3 months and in some patients may take a year. In patients with chronic disease, recovery may not be complete and there may be residual weakness, numbness and pain.
Can a child with GBS be given vaccines?
A child with GBS should avoid immunization for at least 6 weeks after complete recovery. In some children, vaccines may have to be deferred for even a year.
Last updated on 24th December 2009