Some disorders of nerves can be caused by inflammation from a person’s own immune system. This is called autoimmune neuropathy. One form of autoimmune neuropathy is Guillain-Barré syndrome, GBS. Sometimes this is triggered by an infection like the flu or gastroenteritis. Numbness and weakness come on abruptly and progress quickly. In some cases, people with GBS can become completely paralyzed and need a ventilator to assist their breathing. The manifestations of GBS stop progressing within 2 to 4 weeks. Although most everyone with GBS improves, it can take up to a year to recover and some people can be left with significant problems.
A condition related to GBS is chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). Although this can come on abruptly, most cases progress more gradually. Unlike GBS, the numbness and weakness from CIDP continues to progress beyond 4 weeks.
Treatments that address the abnormal behavior of the immune system can be very beneficial to patients with GBS or CIDP. Therefore, timely diagnosis is important. Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) are routinely performed on patients suspected of having neuropathy. It is critical that these tests be performed and interpreted by someone with appropriate training and skill. GBS or CIDP can often be misdiagnosed as other types of neuropathy. This is bad because appropriate treatment may not be given.
Treatment options include intravenous immunoglobulin IVIG, prednisone, plasmapheresis, azathioprine, mycophenolate, cyclophosphamide and rituximab. It is important that treatments are given at the right doses and for a long enough period of time. Therefore, being managed by a clinician with appropriate training and experience will optimize your chances for the best outcome.
Dr. Saperstein has spent over 20 years diagnosing, treating and researching GBS and CIDP. He lectures nationally and internationally to other neurologists teaching them the optimal ways to diagnosis and manage these conditions. At the Center for Complex Neurology Dr. Saperstein and his team will provide you with a state of the art assessment of your neuropathy and guide you through the most appropriate and effective treatment for your condition.