Guillain–Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. Many experience changes in sensation or develop pain, followed by muscle weakness beginning in the feet and hands. The symptoms develop over half a day to two weeks. During the acute phase, the disorder can be life-threatening with about a quarter developing weakness of the breathing muscles and requiring mechanical ventilation. Some are affected by changes in the function of the autonomic nervous system, which can lead to dangerous abnormalities in heart rate and blood pressure.
This autoimmune disease is caused by the body's immune system mistakenly attacking the peripheral nerves and damaging their myelin insulation. Sometimes this immune dysfunction is triggered by an infection. The diagnosis is usually made based on the signs and symptoms, through the exclusion of alternative causes, and supported by tests such as nerve conduction studies and examination of the cerebrospinal fluid. Various classifications exist, depending on the areas of weakness, results of nerve conduction studies, and the presence of antiganglioside antibodies. It is classified as an acute polyneuropathy.
In those with severe weakness, prompt treatment with intravenous immunoglobulins or plasmapheresis, together with supportive care, will lead to good recovery in the majority. Some may experience ongoing difficulty with walking, painful symptoms, and some require long-term breathing support. Guillain–Barré syndrome is rare, at one to two cases per 100,000 people every year. The syndrome is named after the French neurologists Georges Guillain and Jean Alexandre Barré, who described it with André Strohl in 1916.
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http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0515/p2405.html guillain-barré syndrome dana l. Newswanger, lcdr, mc, usnr, national naval medical center, bethesda, maryland,charles r. Warren, lcdr, mc, usnr, naval hospital jacksonville, jacksonville, florida am fam physician. 2004 may 15;69(10):2405-2410.