Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder where an individual's immune system inappropriately attacks the healthy cells that make up their peripheral nervous system. An individual's peripheral nervous system functions to connect their brain to the rest of their body. Symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome include a tingling sensation in the legs, tingling in the feet and toes, prickling sensations in the fingers and toes, muscle weakness in the legs, muscle weakness that extends to the upper body, loss of bladder control, difficulty with breathing, paralysis, fast heart rate, problems with swallowing, issues moving the eyes, issues moving the face, difficulty talking, problems chewing, and an inability to walk steadily. Diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome is made with a physical examination, spinal tap, electromyography, and nerve conduction tests. Treatment includes plasma exchange, intravenous immunoglobulin, and blood-thinning medication.
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Campylobacter infections are found to be the cause of one in every four cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Most individuals who develop Guillain Barre syndrome as a complication of a campylobacter infection will develop symptoms within the two months following their infection. When an individual has a campylobacter infection, their body produces antibodies against certain molecules on the surface of the causative bacteria. These molecules that can be found on the surface of some campylobacter strains tend to mimic certain properties of gangliosides or molecules found on cells in the nervous system. The antibodies that develop during the campylobacter infection in an affected individual's body are then directed in an attack against the nerve cells and their protective myelin sheathing. This attack against the nervous system tissues produces inflammation that blocks the proper conduction of nerve impulses and degradation of the nerve axon. This inflammation in the nerve tissues is what characterizes Guillain-Barre syndrome.
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