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Gullian Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an acute progressive disorder affecting the nervous system, primarily the nerves supplying the muscles, but sensory loss can occur. The illness is thought to be triggered by an earlier episode of infection with flu like symptoms.

There is demyelination of the nerves affected and in severe cases there can be degeneration. The symptoms are that of weakness in the legs, progressing to the arms and are usually symmetrical. Reflexes are lost, sometimes sensory loss shows in a 'glove and stocking, distribution. Attention must be given to the airways and thoracic muscle movement, as this can be compromised.

Respiratory failure would lead to a tracheotomy being performed. Treatment is governed by the severity of the symptoms. There is little evidence that steroid treatment or total immobilization will help. The important element seems to be to maintain good respiratory function, and to engage in gentle physical therapy with the use of heat if it helps relieve the pain symptoms. Recovery is normally slow and can take a few months, and it is not unusual to have residual weakness after 2 or 3 years.

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