What Causes Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)?
What is Guillian-Barre Syndrome? You probably haven’t heard of it because it’s rare and caused in rare cases by the tetanus & flu vaccines.
According to the National Institutes of Health, it occurs in 1 in 100,000 people.
It happens to people of all ages, although risk increases as you age. Initially, you experience weakness and tingling in your legs. Although, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 10% of people notice these sensations first in their arms or face.
You may also notice other symptoms like:
- A prickling “pins and needles” feeling in your extremities
- Leg and upper body weakness
- Difficulty walking, talking, chewing, or swallowing
- Severe pains that get worse at night
- Inability to control your bladder or bowels
Eventually, you can experience total paralysis.
By the time Guillain-Barre is about to cause paralysis, it can also interfere with your breathing, and it can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. GBS is a medical emergency, and it can lead to death.
The good news is that even though this condition is scary and potentially life-threatening, most people recovery fully, or nearly so, even from very severe cases.
What Causes GBS?
Unfortunately, medical experts have found the flu vaccine, tetanus shot (DTaP, Tdap, Td, DT, TT), and other vaccines cause this condition in rare cases.
Vaccines, however, are not the only causes. Other conditions cause GBS – like viral and bacterial infections. There are also unknown causes for GBS.
Experts do know how this condition works. Typically, your immune system attacks only foreign and harmful organisms. With GBS, however, your immune system decides to attack your own body. Specifically, your immune system destroys the myelin sheath that protects your nerve’s axons. These axons are responsible for carrying signals throughout your nerves and up to your brain. Your immune system may also go as far as attacking your axons themselves.
When your myelin sheath is damaged by your immune system, your nerves can’t transmit signals like normal. So, your brain begins to lose the ability to feel heat, pain, or to distinguish between different textures. Your brain may also get the wrong signals, which results in you experiencing tingling, crawling skin, or pain.
How do Doctors Diagnose GBS?
It’s difficult for doctors to diagnose this syndrome. It’s considered a syndrome, and not a disease, because there is no specific disease-causing agent.
Rather, it’s a collection of symptoms – what you feel – and signs – what your doctor can see. Unfortunately, these can vary widely by person, so this condition is difficult to diagnose early on.
Some of the symptoms that distinguish Guillain-Barre from other similar conditions are:
- Symptoms appear on both sides of your body
- Symptoms appear quickly, usually within just 2-4 weeks
- You lose the ability to jerk your knee
- A test of your cerebrospinal fluid (spinal tap) shows higher protein levels in the absence of white blood cells
GBS also comes in other forms, like:
- AIDP – Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy – It’s the most common form and usually starts with lower body muscle weakness that spreads up your body.
- Miller Fisher Syndrome – About 5% of people in our nation get this variant. It’s paralysis that starts in your face and can also make walking difficult.
- CIDP – Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy – It’s more common in young adults and men. It usually begins with tingling and numbness in your extremities, along with leg and arm weakness, fatigue, and loss of reflexes in your tendons. It tends to be chronic in nature for many affected by it.
- Transverse Myelitis – This neurological disorder causes inflammation on both sides of your spinal cord. It first appears as back pain, but can eventually lead to paralysis, urinary retention, and an inability to control your bowels. Most patients experience this condition just once. But for others, this condition is permanent.
How Do You Treat Guillain Barre?
There is no known cure, but you can make your recovery faster and reduce the symptoms of GBS.
The Mayo Clinic notes a couple treatments that aid your recovery:
1. Plasma exchange – With this treatment your blood’s plasma is separated from your blood cells. These blood cells are then put back into your body. Your body then makes more plasma to replace what was lost. The theory is that this removes antibodies that your immune system decides to attack.
2. Immunoglobulin therapy – With this therapy, healthy antibodies from blood donors are given to you through an IV. High doses can block the bad antibodies causing GBS.
Your doctor may also prescribe medication to reduce severe pain and prevent blood clots. You may also need physical therapy to regain your strength.
Though severe, the prognosis for this condition is relatively good.
GBS Typical Recovery Pattern:
- Its symptoms worsen for the first 2 weeks
- They even off and hold steady at about 4 weeks
- Recovery lasts for 6-12 months for most people, but takes up to 3 years for some Long-term, this is how most recover:
- 80% of all patients can walk alone 6 months after diagnosis
- 60% fully recover after 1 year
- 5-10% have a longer recovery and do not recover fully
- Children recover faster than adults
Compensation for GBS Vaccine Injury
Unfortunately, in rare cases, the common flu and tetanus vaccines can cause GBS. The Federal Government has set established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to help victims.
You can get this compensation for your injuries:
- Coverage for past and future medical expenses
- Replacement for your loss of ability to produce income
- Reimbursement of legal fees
- Up to $250,000 for pain and suffering
However, you have just 3 years from the first sign of a symptom or injury to file your claim.
Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
And all cases for the entire United States are only heard in Washington, D.C.’s “Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.” It is strongly encouraged that you are represented by a lawyer in making a claim – rest assured, the government will have its team of lawyers prepared to challenge your claim.
Howie Law, PC’s vaccine injury lawyers are admitted to practice in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., and they have over a decade of experience helping vaccine injury victims like you get the just financial compensation you deserve.
- National Institutes Health (NIH): https://www.nih.gov/
- Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/guillain-barre-syndrome/basics/symptoms/con-20025832
- National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: https://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/
- Office of Special Masters of the US Court of Federal Claims: http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/vaccine-programoffice-special-masters
- US Court of Federal Claims: http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/