Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Guillan-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disease which affects the peripheral nervous system. The syndrome is typically triggered when the body is trying to fight off an acute infection. In the case of GBS, the immune system goes into over drive and, instead of concentrating solely on the infecting agent, begins to attack the nerve tissue gangliosides. The syndrome can sometimes be induced by an immune response to medicine (Serum Sickness.)

As the immune system begins to destroy the nerve tissue, the patient begins to feel paralysis symtoms, such as weakness in the lower limbs. GBS has a characteristic progression with neuropathy spreading from the legs up the trunk of the body and into the face. Many patients, but not all, feel pain in their weakened muscles, which can be treated with normal pain medications. There is no fever associated with GBS. In fact, absence of fever is a diagnostic marker of the ailment.

The lethal danger from GBS is that it can also affect the nerves responsible for autonomic functions such as breathing and circulatory control. Some GBS patients (30%) need to be put onto respirators while the disease runs its course to prevent suffocation.

Treatment includes plasmapheresis or intravenous immunoglobulins and supportive care.

About 80% of people who are afflicted with GBS, recover fully within a few months to a year. 5-10% experience permanent damage to their axons which causes significant disability. Even with treatment, around 3% of patients die from the syndrome.

Since this sick has a profound impact on the patient's body and because it is lethal 3% of the time even with the best treatment possible, I rate it a

3 on my "lethality scale" (1-10)
and a 3 on my "disturbing scale" (1-10)

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