August 15, 2023
Last month, the government declared a national health emergency due to an unusual increase in cases of Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS). But, what do we know about it and why is it important to educate the population and keep us informed of its progress? Dr. Julio Cachay, internist, and infectious disease doctor of our clinic provides us with valuable information on the syndrome.
What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)?
It is a rare and severe neurological disease, with an autoimmune mechanism, in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves, causing inflammation and muscle weakness.
What are its causes?
Its exact causes are unknown. It is usually associated with a viral or bacterial infection, either at the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract level. Even, as a result of the increase of dengue fever in Peru, a possible link has been established between this disease and the increase in cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which still requires further investigation.
What are its symptoms?
The main symptom of Guillain-Barré syndrome is progressive muscle weakness, which usually starts in the lower limbs and may spread to the upper body, generating abnormal sensations in the limbs such as tingling and difficulty in mobility. In more severe cases, it may even lead to temporary paralysis and affect the respiratory muscles, requiring respiratory assistance.
How is Guillain-Barré syndrome diagnosed?
Diagnosis is clinical, evaluating the symptoms and performing a series of tests, such as blood tests and lumbar puncture, to analyze the cerebrospinal fluid. Nerve conduction studies are also performed to observe the electrical activity of the nerves or peripheral roots.
The treatment of this syndrome focuses on the autoimmune process (for which intravenous immunoglobulin or plasmapheresis will be administered, to placate the immune response). However, as part of the recovery (which will depend on the degree of compromise and the evolution of the syndrome between mild, moderate, or severe), rehabilitation therapy should be carried out to facilitate the recovery of the neuromuscular system, gradually toning the muscles and improving the patient’s quality of life.
Dr. Julio Cachay
Internist and Infectious disease at Clínica Ricardo Palma