GBSfinal - SSP 160 11/14/06 Guillain-Barr Syndrome...

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SSP 160 11/14/06 Guillain-Barré Syndrome Introduction: The purpose of this research paper is to explore, detail and relate the three major themes of the course (epidemiology, experience of illness, and the healthcare system) with regards to the extremely mysterious autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). The first part of this paper will focus on the experience of the illness, the second section will discuss the disease’s treatment within the healthcare system, and lastly the epidemiology of the disease will be discussed in the context of both the United States, and other nations around the world. Given the immense amount of material available about the mechanisms of the disease’s progression on a cellular level, and the vast amount that is still very poorly understood by modern medicine about Guillain-Barré, this report will attempt to cover the broader aspects of the disease, and present some of the multitude of theories currently being considered. Experience of Illness: Guillain-Barré syndrome is classified as an autoimmune disease. GBS occurs when the body’s natural defense system incorrectly targets and attacks its own nerve cells throughout the body except in the brain or spinal cord. The disease beings with sudden, noticeable, numbness in the lower extremities, which rapidly evolves into total paralysis of the limbs. The disease then progresses with the paralysis ascending up the body, and can paralyze the functions of the diaphragm, and even facial and ocular muscles. The length and severity of the disease vary however on an individual basis, with symptoms lasting weeks, months and even years. Of those individuals who develop GBS, most go on to make a full or partial recovery of function, some however are left with permanent nerve damage, and on average 5-6% of those who contract the disease end up succumbing to its effects (respiratory failure due to paralysis of the diaphragm, heart rate, or blood pressure) or its byproducts (which are largely the same that affect all victims of paralysis, including gastro-intestinal problems, pneumonias, and sepsis) (CDC fact
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sheet). The reason for the ascending paralysis is that the autoimmune response of the host begins to attack and destroy the myelin sheath that covers the axons of the peripheral nerves of the human body. The purpose of the myelin sheath is to increase transmission speed, and distance of nerve signals, allowing them to properly reach the brain in tact. So as the body’s immune system destroys the myelin sheath, and possibly even does damage to the axon, transmissions to the brain become delayed or stopped all together. This leads to ascending and, in the most severe cases, almost total paralysis (NINDS, 2006). In the severe cases of this disease, individuals can suffer from total paralysis for a
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This note was uploaded on 07/03/2008 for the course SSP 160 taught by Professor Lasker during the Fall '06 term at Lehigh University .

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GBSfinal - SSP 160 11/14/06 Guillain-Barr Syndrome...

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