What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is a rare condition affecting 1 in 100,000 Americans that causes a person’s immune system to attack their peripheral nerves.  The syndrome affects the peripheral nerves, which are responsible for controlling muscle movement and transmitting temperature, touch and pain sensations.  In rare cases, GBS can cause muscle weakness and almost total paralysis.  In general, up to 5% of GBS sufferers die from complications, such as blood infections, lung clots, cardiac arrest or paralysis of muscles that control breathing.  Although anyone can be diagnosed with GBS, the disease is more common in adults and males after an infectious illness. 

What causes Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

The exact cause of GBS has not been determined but it is generally triggered by an infection, such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumonia, HIV or AIDS, Cytomegalovirus, or Epstein-Barr virus.  Also, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the link between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

The first signs of GBS include weakness and tingling sensations in the legs that spreads to the arms and face within a few hours of contracting the disease.  In some patients, the tingling sensations can cause temporary paralysis of the legs, arms or face, with rare cases causing total paralysis.  Other symptoms include difficulty walking, difficulty moving the eyes, face, talking, chewing or swallowing, severe lower back pain, loss of bladder control or fast heart rate.  In some cases, other complications can occur as a result of lingering side effects, including lingering weakness, high blood pressure, general pain, slow bowel or bladder function, blood clots or bedsores.   A majority of the symptoms reside within a few weeks.

How is Guillain-Barré Syndrome diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis of GBS consists of a combination of test results, including a neurological exam to determine diminished loss of deep-tendon reflexes, a blood test to identify the cause, a spinal tap to detect high protein levels, an electromyography test to determine the electrical activity from the muscles, and a nerve conduction test to see how the nerves and muscles respond to electrical pulses.

There is no cure for GBS, but treatments are used to alleviate symptoms.  In general, treatments monitor breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure. If the person is experiencing difficulty breathing, a ventilator can be used.  Additionally, immunotherapy options can be used to counteract the autoimmune nature of GBS. A plasmaopheresis treatment can also be done to remove the antibodies that are attacking the peripheral nerves. 

How can RSVP Home Care help treat Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

If you or someone you know is suffering from GBS, RSVP Home Care can help provide durable medical equipment and respiratory therapists in the Greater Cincinnati area to the lessen symptoms of GBS.  As a home care company in Cincinnati, we offer respiratory equipment, including ventilators, and enterals for treatment of GBS symptoms.  Additionally, our team of qualified respiratory therapists can assist with alleviating breathing complications associated with GBS.  Contact us today to see how we can assist you with treating Guillain-Barré syndrome.