January 21, 2021
There are a range of rare and chronic conditions that plasma, the largest component of human blood, is capable of treating. Guillain-Barre syndrome is one such condition. In this blog, we’ll be unpacking everything you need to know about Guillain-Barre syndrome and how blood plasma is used to manage this condition.
What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder that causes your body’s immune system to attack healthy nerve cells. This leads to muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, and tingling or numbness in parts of your body. In severe cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, these sensations can spread and eventually paralyze your whole body.
What are the Symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome causes your immune system to attack your peripheral nervous system. Since the nerves in your peripheral nervous system transmit signals between your brain and your body, when these nerves become damaged your muscles are no longer able to respond to signals from your brain.
Early symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome include tingling and muscle weakness starting in your toes, feet, and legs that spread upward to your arms. Other symptoms of this autoimmune disorder may include:
· Difficulty walking
· Difficulty with facial movements, including talking, chewing, or swallowing
· Difficulty with bladder control
· Difficulty breathing
· Severe aches and pains
· Rapid heart rate
What Causes Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown. Roughly two-thirds of people with the condition report developing it shortly after they’ve had a respiratory or digestive tract infection. Cases have also been reported following a Zika virus or COVID-19 infection.
An improper immune response to the prior illness is thought to lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome. Anyone can get this disorder, but it’s more common in older adults. A Guillain-Barre syndrome diagnosis is typically confirmed using spinal tap, electromyography, and/or nerve conduction tests.
How is Guillain-Barre Syndrome Treated?
If left untreated, the symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome can be fatal. Thankfully, plasmapheresis and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) treatments can both be used to manage immune attacks and support bodily functions.
During the plasmapheresis procedure, antibodies that are attacking your nerves are removed from your blood via an apheresis machine. The apheresis machine then separates these antibodies out and returns your blood to your body.
IVIG treatments are plasma-derived products that are manufactured from the blood plasma of healthy donors. This treatment can help block the antibodies that cause Guillain-Barre syndrome when administered in high doses.
The inflammatory issues caused by Guillain-Barre syndrome will usually resolve on their own, but with these innovative treatments, the symptoms and duration of this illness can be eased and reduced. If you’d like to help patients afflicted with Guillain-Barre syndrome, book your next plasma donation appointment today.