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
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.
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