Pertinent facts about Guillain-Barré syndrome include the following (the figures are approximate):
- Frequency is about 1 to 2 cases in 100,000 population each year (0.001 - 0.002%); the disorder is rare
- About 50% of cases follow a viral illness.
- Diagnosis can be difficult in the syndrome's early stages.
- The disorder is not contagious.
- Half the patients initially develop abnormal sensations; 25% present initially with muscle weakness (often difficulty walking); 25% present initially with both abnormal sensations and weakness.
- Rehabilitation is the major form of treatment.
- Recovery may occur over 6 months to 2 years or longer. It can occur sooner.
- In the early stages of the illness, prognosis or long-term outcome is not predictable.
- Up to 90% of patients eventually have complete or almost complete recovery.
- Five to 15% of patients will have significant long-term disability or handicap.
- Perhaps 35 to 45% of patients have long lasting, but mild, abnormalities.
- The frequency of death is about 1 - 5% usually due to respiratory or cardiovascular complications.
Miller Fisher Syndrome
In 1956, M. Fisher reported three patients with what is now referred to as Fisher's or Miller Fisher Syndrome. It also has the outlandishly long but medically descriptive name, acute disseminated encephalomyeloradiculopathy. It is considered a variation of Guillain-Barré syndrome and is rather rare. Most cases have occurred in adult males shortly after an upper respiratory infection. The prominent features are weakness of the eye movements, often with double or blurred vision, a clumsy walk, and loss of deep tendon reflexes, such as knee jerks.
Other common accompanying complaints include facial weakness or sagging, abnormal sensations (numbness, tingling, etc.,) generalised weakness and slurred speech. Spinal fluid protein is elevated.
As with usual forms of Guillain-Barré syndrome, the cause of Miller Fisher syndrome is not known and treatment with corticosteroids has sometimes been tried.
Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Poly-radiculoneuropathy
CIDP, or chronic inflammatory demyelinating poly-radiculoneuropathy, shares many features with Guillain-Barré syndrome, and in fact, is sometimes referred to as chronic or relapsing (recurring) Guillain-Barré syndrome. However it is very much less common. Other medically descriptive names by which CIDP is known include chronic idiopathic polyneuritis and chronic relapsing (dysimmune) polyneuropathy. It is usually clear from soon after the onset that a patient has CIDP because of its chronic, ie gradually progressive course evolving over months or years rather than days or weeks as in Guillain-Barré syndrome. Some patients with CIDP do have periods of worsening and then improvement and individual relapses are sometimes rather confusingly like Guillain-Barré syndrome.
CIDP is covered more fully in a booklet called "CIDP: A Short Guide for the Patient, Relative and Friend" available on request from Guillain-Barré Syndrome Association of NSW Inc. (02) 4759 2787.
THE GBS ASSOCIATION
PO Box 572
EPPING NSW 1710
ALL LITERATURE IS PRODUCED ENTIRELY FROM WITHIN THE RESOURCES OF THE ASSOCIATION. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP US TO CONTINUE TO PRODUCE UPDATED AND EXTENDED LITERATURE, PLEASE CONSIDER EITHER JOINING THE ASSOCIATION OR MAKING A FINANCIAL DONATION.
"An Overview for the LAY PERSON" was written by Dr. Joel S. Steinberg, Neurologist, and a former GBS patient.
This booklet is dedicated to founding members Estelle and Robert Benson of:
The Guillain-Barré Syndrome Foundation International
PO BOX 262 WYNNEWOOD
PA 19096 USA
THE GBS ASSOCIATION wishes to thank the Guillain-Barré Syndrome Foundation International for the use of their material.
THE GBS ASSOCIATION urgently needs Sponsors for future re-prints of this booklet.