Guillain-Barre Syndrome

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Most people do not expect to become paralyzed during the course of their lives. Barring injury to the nervous system or debilitating disease, one does not expect to lose motor function. In spite of these expectations, people of all races, sexes, ages, and classes can be afflicted with a debilitating syndrome that can lead to difficulty in walking or even to temporary paralysis in the most severe cases. This syndrome is known commonly as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS.

GBS is an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves. When the syndrome occurs, the body's peripheral nerves become inflamed and cease to work due to an unknown cause. (1) (3) Around 50% of the cases of GBS appear after a bacterial or viral infection. (1) The syndrome can also appear after surgery or vaccination. GBS can appear hours or days after these incidences or can even take up to three or four weeks to appear. (4) Some theories propose that GBS is caused by a mechanism of the autoimmune system that prompts antibodies and white blood cells to attack the covering and insulation of the nerve cells, which leads to abnormal sensation. GBS is considered a syndrome rather than a disease, because its description is based on a set of symptoms reported by the patient to her doctor. (5)

GBS is also known as acute inflammatory demylinating polyneuropathy and Landry's ascending paralysis after Jean B. O. Landry, a French physician who described a disorder that "paralyzed the legs, arms, neck, and breathing muscles of the chest." (4) (1) GBS was named after French physicians Georges Guillain and Jean Alexander Barre who, along with fellow physician Andre Stohl, described the differences of the spinal fluid of those who suffered f...

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...undation International, based in Wynnewood, PA.

2) Kolata, Gina. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It. Simon & Schuster: New York. Pgs. 167-185.

3) Guillain-Barré Support Group, The homepage for the Guillain-Barre Syndrome Support Group based in the United Kingdom. The organization disseminates information to sufferers of the syndrome and their family and friends.

4) NINDS Guillain-Barre Information Page, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke information page on GBS.

5) GBS - An Overview For The Layperson, An overview of GBS written by Dr. Joel S. Steinberg, a neurologist that once suffered from GBS.

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