Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Medical Malpractice Lawyers
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Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Overview
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a deviation of the bodys immune system in which the nerves are attacked. There is ongoing tingling and weakness of the extremities, with spread from the extremities to the whole body. It can become a severe medical emergency where you'd need to be hospitalized.
The exact cause of the disease is not known but it is usually preceded by the onset of an infectious illness such as the stomach flu or a respiratory illness. It is a rare disease, affecting about 1-2 people in a 100,000 individuals. There is no known cure for Guillain-Barre; however, it is a good idea to have it diagnosed as soon as possible so that recovery can happen sooner, even though residual fatigue, weakness and numbness can occur.
The best way to diagnose Guillain-Barre properly is to know its signs and symptoms. Some of the symptoms can be subtle in the beginning so it pays to know them. The symptoms often begin with weakness and tingling in the feet, traveling up the legs. The fingers can also be involved. The weakened areas spread to become paralyzed. Other signs include “pins and needles” sensations in the toes or fingers, weakness or tingling in the legs, spreading upwards, unsteady walking, facial paralysis and eye movement problems. You can get a severe pain in the low back, rapid heart rate, difficulty with bowel and bladder function and difficulty breathing. Because breathing is ultimately involved, failure to diagnose Guillain-Barre disease can lead to respiratory failure.
The symptoms often progress over a four week period of time. They can progress rapidly, even over the span of a few hours. This is why prompt diagnosis is crucial and why hospitalization may be needed.
Doctors do not know the exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome. About sixty percent of cases are preceded by a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection. Patients can also have recent surgery or pregnancy as a preceding factor. And many cases have nothing to precede it.
The final problem is that in Guillain-Barre disease, the immune system attacks the nerve signals that end up going to the brain. The myelin sheath covering nerve cells is damaged and the signaling process is impaired, leading to paralysis and numbness.
The risk factors to getting Guillain-Barre disease include the following:
- Being a young adult
- Being an elderly person
- Having an infection with Campylobacter
- Having Mycoplasma pneumonia
- Having Epstein-Barr disease
- Undergoing surgery
- Having influenza
- Having Hodgkin lymphoma
- Having mononucleosis
- Rabies immunizations
- Influenza immunizations
- Being infected with HIV
If Guillain-Barre disease is not caught promptly, some of the complications can begin to show up. These include the following:
- Respiratory failure from paralysis to breathing muscles
- Residual numbness or weakness. Guillain-Barre rarely resolves completely
- Heart problems with wild fluctuations in pulse and blood pressure
- Ongoing neuropathic pain
- Bowel and bladder dysfunction
- Blood clots to the deep veins of the lower legs or lungs
- Pressure sores from immobility
- Relapsing symptoms
The complications can be severe and long-term with death from respiratory failure or a heart attack.
The diagnosis of Guillain-Barre disease must be diagnosed early using the available medical technical tests of the day. It can be hard to diagnose in the early stages of the disease and it can look like other neurological diseases. A careful medical and neurological history must be taken along with a careful neurological examination.
A spinal tap involves putting a needle into the spinal canal from the lumbar spine. A sample of the fluid is taken to rule out other diseases and to see if a particular type of change suspicious for Guillain-Barre disease can be found.
Nerve conduction testing is done to see how the nerves behave in a situation of getting a small electrical signal. An EMG or electromyography can show how much electrical activity can be found in the muscles.
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