What do you call it when first your feet become weak, and then your legs, and then your arms, and then even your ability to breathe? You might call it trouble. Doctors call it Guillain Barre Syndrome. Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy is about as bulky and awkward a name as there is, but the terminology has the endearing feature of encoding the disease’s essential features. Starting from the back end and working forwards, “-pathy” means illness; “neuro” says that the peripheral nerves are involved; “radiculo” means that the spinal nerves emanating from the spinal cord are also affected; “poly” means it’s a widespread process; “demyelinating” means that the nerve-fibers are stripped of their sheath-like myelin coverings; “inflammatory” means a local tissue reaction to biochemical or physical irritation; and “acute” means that the disease develops rapidly over a matter of days. Despite the lesson in medical terminology provided by the full name, it’s easy to see why the condition often goes by the shorter names of AIDP or Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS). Georges Guillain and Jean-Alexandre Barre described cases of this condition among French soldiers in the First World War. It is noteworthy that the condition is labeled a “syndrome,” rather… Read full this story
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