What Are Some Facts About Guillain-Barré Syndrome?


Quick Answer

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disease where the body's immune system attacks its nervous system, according to Mayo Clinic. This condition can spread very rapidly, and in some cases results in breathing difficulty that is life-threatening.

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No one knows what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, says Mayo Clinic. However, the risk of getting it increases if the person has had recent surgery or a recent illness, especially one that involved lupus, a respiratory infection or gastroenteritis. People who have had Hodgkin's lymphoma and HIV are also more at risk for getting the disease.

The symptoms can begin as a tingling or prickling in the extremities, posits Mayo Clinic. It progresses to weakness in the legs, clumsiness, difficulty controlling the muscles in the face or head, and cramp-like pains. Other possibilities include incontinence, tachycardia and irregularities in the blood pressure. The symptoms are at their worst about two weeks after they begin, then the patient starts to improve.

There are several forms of Guillain-Barré syndrome, claims Mayo Clinic. They include acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy, where weakness grows upward from the lower part of the body. This is the most common form of Guillain-Barré syndrome in the United States. The immune system attacks the protective myelin sheaths that cover the nerves. People with Miller Fisher syndrome experience ataxia and paralysis in their eyes.

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