How To Treat Guillain-Barré syndrome
Guillain-Barré syndrome (also called polyradiculoneuritis) is an unusual disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system, causes acute inflammation and damages to certain nerves in the body. This leads to symptoms such as muscle weakness, ascending paralysis and other symptoms. That is why, it must be treated very quickly to avoid the patient’s life in danger.
Despite its seriousness, this is a rare disease, however, an increase in cases with this syndrome has recently been observed in those areas that have been affected by outbreaks of the Zika virus. This diseas has led WHO to warn to the population of the possible relation between both diseases and of the necessity of extreme precautions. Continue reading this article to know more details and learn how to treat Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Guillain-Barré syndrome Causes
The exact causes of Guillain-Barré syndrome are unknown but specialists have found that the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system and cause muscle weakness or paralysis more often in patients who:
- They have or have had a viral or bacterial infection, such as influenza, cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr virus, mononucleosis, HIV, Zika virus, herpes simplex, gastrointestinal diseases and mycoplasma pneumonia.
- Having other addictions such as Hodgkin’s disease or systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Recently they have undergone some type of surgical intervention.
This disease can affect anyone, but it has been observed to be more common among adults of both sexes whose age ranges from 30 to 50 years. In addition, its incidence increases with age, so patients older than 50 have a higher risk of developing it.
Guillain-Barré syndrome Symptoms
As we have mentioned, what happens in this disorder is that the immune system itself begins to attack the body and causes damage to parts of the peripheral nerves. These damages to peripheral nerves cause them can not transmit signals effectively and lose their ability to respond to the orders of the brain.
The symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome can be aggravated seriously in a matter of few hours. So it is advisable to stay alert and go to medical consultation at the first manifestations. Patient usually suffers from muscle weakness or paralysis on both sides of the body which occurs ascending. It starts in the legs and radiates up to the arms.
Other signs and symptoms typical of this condition are:
- Numbness or tingling in certain parts of the body
- Muscle aches and difficulty in moving your legs, arms or face
- Loss of sensation
- Decentralized mobility
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Abnormal heart rate
- Low blood pressure
In addition to these, there are symptoms that could arise and should be reason for immediate medical consultation, such as difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, drooling, palpitations or fainting.
Treatment of Guillain-Barré syndrome
There is no specific cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome, but the treatment is intended to improve the patient’s well-being, accelerate recovery and avoid possible complications that put in serious danger patient’s life.
In the early stages of the disease, one of the following two forms of treatment may be performed:
- Plasmapheresis: With this method, blood is separated into its two components (cellular and plasma) to block those antibodies that are attacking nerve cells.
- Immunoglobulin therapy: involves the administration of intravenous injections of protein that the immune system itself uses to block invading organisms.
If symptoms are severe, the patient will also require a personalized treatment in a hospital and may need a respirator, as well as be connected to a heart rate monitor or other machines that maintain the vital functions of the organism. In addition, in order to prevent the disease from worsening and accelerating patient’s recovery, it should be applied the followings:
- Administration of anticoagulant medication to prevent the formation of blood clots.
- Administration of analgesic drugs to reduce pain.
- Placement of a feeding tube, in these cases in which the muscles responsible for swallowing are weakened.
- Performing a physiotherapy treatment to promote the health of both muscles and joints
Guillain-Barré syndrome Complications
The majority of patients recover completely after having suffered this disorder, but such recovery can take from a few weeks to months or a few years which depends on each particular case. However, what is clear is that it is a disease that must be treated medically as soon as possible, especially to avoid complications such as those detailed below:
- Respiratory insufficiency
- Contractures or deformities
- Blood clotting
- Permanent paralysis
- Low blood pressure
The WHO has warned of a possible link between Guillain-Barré syndrome and Zika virus. Zika virus is transmitted by the infected bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that has already spread through several countries in Latin America. Although there is no scientific evidence to confirm this association, it has been pointed out that a significant increase in Guillain-Barré cases has been observed in the regions that have been most affected by outbreaks of Zika virus in the last years.