It’s rare, but Guillain-Barre syndrome could happen to your parent. Chances of developing this neurological disorder are about 1 in 100,000. If it does occur, the patient typically needs a lot of rehabilitation and help at home from caregivers. Here’s what you should know.
Guillain-Barre is an autoimmune disease where the body sees the nerve cells as invaders and creates an immune response that attacks them. Researchers find that many cases start after a viral infection. Some develop a more severe case than others. There are many symptoms. They include:
- Difficulty when walking.
- Digestive issues.
- Partial or extreme paralysis.
- Pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet.
- Problems breathing.
- Struggle to chew and swallow.
- Trouble with vision and speech.
- Unusual heart rhythm and/or blood pressure.
If paralysis and issues with chewing occur, there is a risk for pneumonia. This becomes a secondary issue and can become life-threatening if not treated quickly.
There Are Three Types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
There are three types of Guillain-Barre. Acute inflammatory is the most common form in the U.S. It usually starts with muscle weakness in the lower body and works its way upward.
Acute motor axonal neuropathy isn’t as common in the U.S., but it presents as a paralysis that affects the body’s reflexes without affecting the sensory nervous system.
Finally, Miller Fisher syndrome is a form of Guillain-Barre that starts in the eyes and causes difficulty with coordination.
Treatments for Guillain-Barre.
One of the common treatments for Guillain-Barre is a plasma exchange. Using a catheter, a little blood is removed from the patient. The blood is processed to remove the plasma, which is then returned into the bloodstream to boost antibodies. It can also filter out the antibodies that attack the nerve cells.
Another option is IVIg therapy. Immunoglobulins are injected into the bloodstream to reduce the attack of the immune system on the nerves.
Any treatment takes time. It’s not an overnight cure. During this time, caregivers are needed to help with personal care and grooming. Someone should be around to monitor the person with Guillain-Barre to make sure breathing issues do not arise.
Strengthening exercises must be done daily to help rebuild strength and mobility. Patients may need encouragement and help performing challenging exercises while muscle strength returns.
With treatments and rehabilitation, 7 out of 10 patients fully recover. If your parent is diagnosed with Guillain-Barre, there is a small chance they will need a walker or wheelchair. Make sure caregivers are on hand to help them with activities of daily living.