Catching Guillain-Barrè Syndrome Early Speeds Recovery

Guidelines advise quick treatment for autoimmune disease

TUESDAY, Sept. 23, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Early treatment of people with Guillain-Barrè syndrome may speed their recovery.

That advice comes from new American Academy of Neurology guidelines published in the Sept. 23 issue of Neurology.

Guillain-Barrè syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks and damages the nervous system. People with GBS suffer rapid onset of weakness and paralysis of the legs, arms, face and breathing muscles.

GBS is the most common form of rapidly acquired paralysis in the United States. It affects between one and four of every 100,000 people in the United States each year.

The authors of the new guidelines examined all the scientific research on GBS. They found evidence that two treatments -- plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) -- offer equal benefits for adults with severe, early GBS. The treatments could also be considered for use in children with severe GBS, the guidelines say.

Another treatment, cortisone, was not found to be beneficial and is not recommended for GBS.

"This means that people who are severely affected should be treated early with either IVIg or plasma exchange," guidelines co-author Dr. Richard Hughes of Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine in London, England, says in a news statement.

"Neurologists and their patients should consider that IVIg has somewhat fewer side effects and is more convenient," Hughes says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Guillain-Barrè syndrome.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Sept. 22, 2003
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