Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. This autoimmune disease can affect the peripheral nervous system, and can lead to weakness and paralysis that could possibly last for months or even years. Let’s take a closer look to better understand how GBS is diagnosed, its symptoms, causes and treatment options.

Understanding Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a rare syndrome in which the nerves of the body are attacked by the body’s immune system itself. Usually the first few symptoms of this condition include weakness and tingling. These sensations can spread fast, and can ultimately paralyze the entire body. In its advanced stages, GBS can also be considered a medical emergency, and most of the people affected must be hospitalized in order to receive proper medical care.

How is Guillain-Barré Syndrome diagnosed

The diagnosis for Guillain-Barre Syndrome is usually difficult in its early stages. Its signs and symptoms are very similar to those of other neurological disorders, and your doctor or physician is likely to recommend a spinal tap (lumbar puncture), electromyography, and nerve conduction studies for the initial assessment.

Symptoms of GBS

Numbness, tingling, weakness and pain are some of the initial symptoms, which usually begin in the longest nerves of the body. It first affects the feet and then the hands, resulting in an ascending paralysis. This is called the “stocking-glove” pattern. These may spread to the upper body and arms, and in some cases, symptoms may begin in the arms or face. Muscle weakness may give way to paralysis as GBS progresses.

Here are some of its common signs and symptoms:

  • Sensation of prickling pins and needles in the fingers, toes, ankles, or wrists
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Unsteady walking or inability to walk or climb stairs
  • Difficulty with eye or facial movements, including speaking, chewing, or swallowing
  • Severe pain that may feel achy or cramp-like that worsens at night
  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel functions
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing

GBS Causes

The exact cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome has not yet been discovered, although, more often than not, it is preceded by an infectious illness, such as a respiratory infection or a stomach flu. This condition usually occurs days or weeks after a respiratory or digestive tract infection. On rare occasions, a surgery or immunization has also given rise to GBS, and some cases have recently been reported after getting the Zika virus.
In case of the Guillain-Barre Syndrome, our immune system attacks the nerves. Here are some of the triggers:

  • An infection with campylobacter (a type of bacteria often found in undercooked poultry)
  • Influenza virus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Zika virus
  • Hepatitis A, B, C and E
  • HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Surgery
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Rarely, influenza vaccinations or childhood vaccinations

Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatments

GBS can be treated with integrative approaches. Stem cell therapeutics are especially brought into Guillain-Barré syndrome treatment protocols to address the demyelinating polyneuropathy, progressive weakness, and the multitude of systemic diseases that follow. One of the most comprehensive and effective GBS treatments is stem cell therapy. In this, pluripotent stem cells repair the nerve tissue in the brain and balance the immune system. With each injection, self-healing mechanisms are triggered and this stem cell type simultaneously addresses the autonomic dysfunction, the autoimmune responses, the demyelinating forms, and the axonal degeneration.
The aim of any treatment for Guillain-Barré Syndrome is not just to improve balance and mobility, or reduce muscle stiffness and muscle spasms, but it is also to prevent worsening weakness and difficulties in breathing. For this, a rehabilitative treatment i.e. Multidisciplinary care i.e. delivery of coordinated care with clearly identified goals within a specified time period, using at least two disciplines (medicine, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics and other allied health professions) could be beneficial.
Improved respiratory care and new treatment strategies such as plasmaphoresis and immunoglobulin are also starting to make headway and improving outcomes. Physical therapy has also proven to be useful to many patients. A rehabilitation plan is crucial in recovery, and may include physical and other types of therapy to rebuild a patient’s strength and restore their mobility and other functions.

What happens if Guillain-Barré Syndrome goes untreated?

The symptoms can quickly worsen and can be fatal, if left untreated. In severe cases, people with Guillain-Barré Syndrome develop full-body paralysis, which can be life threatening if the paralysis affects the diaphragm or chest muscles, preventing proper breathing.

Does Guillain-Barré Syndrome go away?

Most people eventually do make a full recovery from the Guillain-Barré Syndrome, however, this can sometimes take a long period of time. Around 1 in 5 people end up having long-term problems. Most people recover within a year though.

What to expect after Guillain-Barré Syndrome symptoms treatment?

Up to 22% of people with GBS need temporary help from a machine to breathe in the first week when they’re hospitalized for treatment. Most people recover completely or have minor, residual weakness like numbness or tingling. Recovery after the treatment lasts for 6 to 12 months, though for some people it could take as long as three years.

When to see a doctor?

If the tingling in your toes or fingers seems to be spreading or getting worse, you can set up an appointment with your general practitioner to rule out the condition. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these below-mentioned signs or symptoms:

  • Tingling that starts in your feet or toes, and is now moving to the upper body
  • Tingling or weakness that is spreading rapidly
  • Difficulty catching your breath or shortness of breath when lying flat
  • Choking on saliva

The Guillain-Barré Syndrome should not be taken lightly as it is a serious condition that can worsen fairly quickly. The sooner the right treatment is initiated, and with the right physician, the better the chance of a good outcome.
For any treatment inquiries or more information on the Guillain-Barré Syndrome, do not hesitate to reach out to us. If you’re looking for a good Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore for neurorehabilitation, you should surely visit Dr Na’eem Sadiq.

Dr Na'eem Sadiq is a respected stem cell specialist at Plexus, and a prominent neurologist in Bangalore. He studied neurology and clinical neurophysiology in London, and worked with some of the most prestigious medical institutions in England, and the Middle East. He completed his MBBS at Bellary Government Medical College, and a postgraduate degree in psychiatry from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

Dr Na'eem has perfected his knowledge and expertise in Continuing medical education (CME), and training in tissue culture, Stem Cell Therapy, and neurology. Dr Na'eem Sadiq possesses an undying passion to improve people’s lives. This led to the creation of Plexus, a neuro and Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore in neurosurgery, and neurorehabilitation.