Guillain-Barré Syndrome refers to a rare but severe autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the body’s peripheral nervous system. This results in numbness, tingling and weakness. This can also cause paralysis eventually. Although the cause of this disorder is not known, it is often time triggered by infectious disease such as lung infection or stomach flu.
There are manyhospitals in the USA that provide treatments for Guillain-Barré Syndrome. However, you need to travel from home to these facilities. Note that insurance firms cater for medical treatments but not travel costs. This means that you need to plan wisely so that travel expenses are at the lowest.
If you already know the healthcare facility from which you want to seek medical attention for Guillain-Barré Syndrome, you can go ahead and plan for your travel. Otherwise, you can check our list of hospitals in the USA that provide care for the syndrome. In case you are not able to meet your travel expenses, you can check our directory of charitable organizations that help in arranging cost-free travel for medical treatments.
About Guillain-Barré Syndrome
This disorder is rare and affects about one person in 100,000 in the USA, according to the statistics by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The disorder does not have cure but treatments can ease the severity of the signs and symptoms as well as shorten the duration of the disorder.
There are a number of Guillain-Barré Syndromes but the common of them all is acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP). This is brought about by damage to myelin. Other forms include Miller Fisher Syndrome that affects cranial nerves.
Causes of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
The actual cause of Guillain-Barré is not known. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports thatapproximately two-third of people with this disorderget it soon after they have been down with diarrhea or respiratory illness. This implies that the condition is triggered by an inappropriate immune response to the underlying sickness.
Campylobacter jejuni infection has been linkedto this disorder. Campylobacter bacteria aresome of the most common causes of diarrhea in the country. Additionally, thesebacteria are the most common risk factors for Guillain-Barré Syndrome. These bacteria are usually found in poorly cooked foods especially chicken. Other infections associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome include the following;
- Cytomegalovirus, which is a strain of the herpes virus
- Epstein – Barr virus infection or mononucleosis
- HIV or AIDS
- Mycoplasma pneumonia (atypical pneumonia caused by bacteria-like organisms)
Although a person of any age can get Guillain-Barré Syndrome, men and older adults are more likely to develop the disorder.
Symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
In normal circumstances, the nerves in the peripheral nervous system connect the brain to the rest of the body and sends signals to the muscles. The Guillain-Barré SyndromeGuillain-Barré Syndrome makes the immune system to attack the peripheral nervous system. In this way, if the nerves are damaged, the body muscles will be unable to respond to signals they get from the brain. The first symptom of this disorder will be a tingling in the legs, toes and feet. This tingling will spread upwards affecting the arms and the fingers. These symptoms can be rapid and in some patients, the disorder can get severe in a matter of hours.
Other symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome include the following;
- Difficulty in breathing
- Difficulty in moving the eyes or face, talking, chewing, or swallowing
- Difficulty walking steadily
- Loss of bladder control
- Muscle weakness in the legs that travels to the upper body and gets severe over time
- Rapid heart rate
- Severe lower back pain
- Tingling or prickly sensations in the fingers and toes
Where to Go for Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatments
There are many hospitals and health centers in the United States where patients can seek Guillain-Barré Syndrome treatments. These health facilities have the resources, staff and medications needed to provide the best healthcare treatments and therapies possible. One of the best hospitals where patients can get specialized treatment and management of this syndrome include;
- UCSF Children’s Hospital
The hospital has assembled a multidisciplinary team of professionals to offer the best medical services and care to patients including those suffering from Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Treatment of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
In order to provide the most suitable treatment options, the doctor must first make a proper diagnosis for Guillain-Barré Syndrome. This disorder is challenging when it comes to diagnosis. This is due to the fact that the symptoms manifested are very similar to those manifested in the case of other neurological conditions affecting the nervous system such as meningitis, botulism or heavy metal (lead, arsenic and mercury) poisoning. The doctor will need specific responses on questions about the symptoms, previous illnesses and medical history. In addition to this, the following tests may be administered;
- Spinal tap (also called lumbar puncture). This involves removing a small amount of lower back spinal fluid (called cerebrospinal fluid) and testing it to assess the level of proteins. Individuals with Guillain-Barré Syndrome usually have abnormally higher levels of protein in this fluid.
- This is a test for the nerve function. The test reads the muscles’ electrical activity to get to know whether the muscle weakness is as a result of nerver or muscle damage.
- Nerve conduction tests. This may be used to make an assessment of how the muscles and nerves respond to electrical pulses.
In case of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, the patient should be admitted for closer attention. The symptoms can get worse very fast and can lead to death if left untreated. In some severe instances, patients may develop complete paralysis. If paralysis affects the diaphragm or chest muscles, this affects breathing and is therefore life-threatening.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome is self-limiting. This means that it resolves on its own. The goal of treatment is therefore to lessen the seriousness of the immune attack as well as supporting the bodily functions while the nervous system resolves. Treatment options may include the following;
- Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange). This is a treatment option that removes the antibodies attacking the nerves out of the blood. The blood is removed from the body by a specialized machine. The machine then removes the antibodies and returns the blood to the body.
- Intravenous immunoglobulin. This is the use of high doses of immunoglobulin in order to block those antibodies causing Guillain-Barré Syndrome. This immunoglobulin has healthy, normal antibodies donated by others.
The two treatment options are just as effective. The choice between the two depends on the patient and doctor decisions. Other treatments may feature the following;
- Pain relievers
- Physical therapy
- Activities of daily living (ADL) such as personal care activities.
Patients with Guillain-Barré Syndrome recover within six to 12 months after treatment. 80 percent of these can walk steadily at six months while 60 percent recover regular muscle strength. For some, recovery takes longer with 30 percent still having weaknesses three years after treatment. Still, three percent of patients experience a relapse of the symptoms even years later.
Factors that may lead to worsening of the disorder include the following;
- Delayed treatment resulting in more nerve damage
- Old age
- Prolonged use of a respirator predisposing the patient to pneumonia
- Severe or fast progressing illness
Risks Associated With Guillain-Barré Syndrome
There are risks associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Older adults and males are more at risk of getting this disorder than young individuals. Persons suffering from diarrhea, Campylobacter jejuni infection, and respiratory infections are at risk of contracting the disorder. Additionally, individuals exposed to undercooked foods such as poultry are also at risk of getting this disorder. In exceptionally rare situations, individuals can develop the disorder after receiving vaccination. However, both the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have put safety systems in place to monitor vaccines, detect early signs and symptoms of any side effects as well as record any Guillain-Barré Syndrome cases that would follow the vaccination.
Who Can Go for Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatments
Any person suffering from signs and symptoms associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome should go for diagnosis and treatment for the disorder. This is more so if the patient is aged. Other people that should go for the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder include those suffering from diarrhea, respiratory infections and campylobacter jejuni infection. This is because these illnesses are associated with the development of the disorder. If you find that you have developed a side effect after vaccination, you should also go for diagnosis and treatment for Guillain-Barré Syndrome.