What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a condition where the immune system attacks part of the nervous system, resulting in progressive weakness throughout the body. These symptoms can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing one’s whole body. In its most severe form, Guillain-Barré syndrome is a medical emergency. Most people with the condition must be initially hospitalized to receive treatment. Guillain-Barré syndrome can affect anybody. It can strike at any age and both sexes are equally prone to the disorder. The syndrome is rare, however, afflicting only about one person in 100,000. Usually Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs a few days or weeks after the symptoms of a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. Occasionally, surgery will trigger the syndrome. Recently, some countries worldwide have reported an increased incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome following infection with the Zika virus. In rare instances, vaccinations may increase the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome typically starts with tingling and weakness in the feet and legs, spreading to the upper body and arms. Muscle weakness can evolve into paralysis as Guillain-Barré syndrome progresses. Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome can progress over the course of hours, days, or weeks. Most people reach the stage of greatest weakness within the first two weeks after symptoms appear, and by the third week of the illness 90 percent of all patients are at their weakest.


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How is Guillain-Barré Syndrome Diagnosed?

The signs and symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome vary widely, so doctors may, on rare occasions, find it difficult to diagnose it in its earliest stages. Several disorders have symptoms similar to those found in Guillain-Barré syndrome, so doctors examine and question patients carefully before making a diagnosis. For Guillain-Barré syndrome, physicians observe if the symptoms appear on both sides of the body and the quickness with which the symptoms appear. In Guillain-Barré, reflexes such as knee jerks are usually lost. Because the signals traveling along the nerve are slower, a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test can give clues to aid the diagnosis. In Guillain-Barré patients, the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the spinal cord and brain contains more protein than usual. Therefore, a physician may decide to perform a spinal tap, a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the patient's lower back and a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal column is withdrawn for study.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatment

Guillain-Barré syndrome has no cure, treatments can speed recovery and reduce the severity of the illness including:

  • Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
  • Immunoglobulin therapy
  • Medication to relieve pain and prevent blood clots
  • Physical therapy

Prognosis for Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome can be a devastating disorder because of its sudden and unexpected onset. In addition, recovery is not necessarily quick. Patients usually reach the point of greatest weakness or paralysis days or weeks after the first symptoms occur. Symptoms then stabilize at this level for a period of days, weeks, or, sometimes, months. The recovery period may be as little as a few weeks or as long as a few years. About 30 percent of those with Guillain-Barré syndrome still have a residual weakness after three years. About three percent may suffer a relapse of muscle weakness and tingling sensations many years after the initial attack

Mobility for Those with Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Many with long-term effects of Guillain-Barré syndrome require a power wheelchair for mobility. Quantum Rehab®, the global leader in individualized power wheelchair solutions, puts an emphasis on mobility technologies specific toward those living with Guillain-Barré syndrome. Quantum Power Chairs incorporate power-adjustable seating for user repositioning and comfort; specialty drive controls, including using a single finger or one’s head to operate the power chair; and, a highly-adaptable design to meet an individual’s current and future needs.

Quantum Power Chairs feature the latest advanced technologies to increase the independence of those living with Guillain-Barré syndrome. iLevel® seat elevation technology allows a user to operate the power chair at seated or standing height. Bluetooth® is also integrated into Quantum’s Q-Logic 3 electronics, so those with Guillain-Barré syndrome can operate much of their environment with the power chair drive control, itself.

In these ways, Quantum Power Chairs are designed to give those living with Guillain-Barré syndrome optimal medical comfort and maximum independence. Please click here for more information on Quantum Power Chair solutions for those living with Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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