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Ed Nyman October 2008

Guillain-Barre is considered a rare syndrome that causes progressive muscle weakness and paralysis. It develops over a fewdays or up to about four weeks and lasts several weeks or even months. As a temporary inflammation of the nerves, it oftenfollows recovery from a viral infection such as a cold or gastrointestinal infection.  In some cases it is seen afterimmunization for flu. It causes the immune system to attack the peripheral nervous system. The syndrome is an inflammation ofthe covering of the nerves, the myelin, the surrounds nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. Also, the elongated portion ofthe nerve cell, the axon, can be damaged. The axon conveys electrical signals to distant areas of the muscles and from onenerve cell to another. This damage and inflammation cause muscle weakness, loss of sensation and paralysis because the nervescannot transmit the required signals to the muscles. The individual can become dysautonomic, meaning he or she becomes unableto feel heat, cold, and pain.  Approximately 95% of people who develop the syndrome recover, most of these, fully.

There are three main courses of treatment for Guillain-Barre. One treatment is to let the syndrome run its course, since itnormally is a temporary condition. Another treatment that is used is known as plasmaphoresis, or plasma exchange. Antibodyladen blood plasma, which is the liquid portion of blood, is removed from the body. Red blood cells are separated and put backinto the body with antibody free plasma. This treatment lessens the symptoms and hastens recovery time. A third treatment isthe administration of intravenous immune globulin which also lessens the symptoms and hastens recovery time. Sometimes both ofthese last two are administered to the patient. Physical therapy and exercise is also usually part of the regime to fullrecovery.

I had an opportunity to talk with Ed Nyman who got and recovered from the syndrome in April 2008.   And this showfocuses on his experience.

Links : Toronto Star Article     Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Answers         Wiki Entry

Tags:guillain-barre· autoimmune disorders· state of the health care system· neuroscience