What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
- Guillain-Barre syndrome is a nerve disorder.
- It is an acute and rapidly progressive inflammation of nerves that causes loss of sensation and muscle weakness.
- This syndrome causes the destruction, removal, or loss of the myelin sheath of a nerve. Myelin is the substance of the cell membrane that coils to form the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath serves as an electrical insulator to nerve fibers.
- Guillain-Barre syndrome is also known as a polyneuropathy, which is a disease that involves several nerves.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome Causes
The cause of the disease is unknown. Many speculate that this is an immune-system disorder. Symptoms often begin 5 days to 3 weeks after a viral infection, immunization, or surgery.
The disease affects peripheral nerves, nerve roots, and cranial nerves. Evaluation of the peripheral nerves reveals sections of the nerve with demyelination. Under microscopic exam, the nerve tissue is infiltrated with certain types of white blood cells.
- A viral infection, such as herpes, cytomegalovirus, or Epstein-Barr virus is the cause of over two-thirds of the new cases each year.
- In 1977, there were over 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome associated with a United States flu vaccination program. The cause of this outbreak was never discovered.
- 5-10% of new cases will occur up to 4 weeks after surgery.
Last Reviewed 11/17/2017
Michael A LoGuidice Sr, DO
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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