A 25-Year-Old Unable to Walk: Osmosis USMLE Study Question

March 05, 2021

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disease in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve cells. Degradation of the myelin slows down the rate of nerve conduction and can result in numbness, tingling, and weakness. The disease typically ascends symmetrically up the body, with muscle weakness starting in the feet and toes, and then affecting the upper leg/thigh, then trunk and arms; in severe cases, it can cause complete paralysis.

If the paralysis includes the muscles of respiration, then this is considered a medical emergency and may require putting the patient on a respirator. The specific cause is unknown, but it is frequently preceded by a relatively mild viral illness 1-3 weeks prior to onset of weakness, which may be a trigger for the immune system to react abnormally.

Major Takeaway: Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disease typically marked by an ascending, symmetrical pattern of muscle weakness, typically following a viral illness.

Read more on Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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