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The Difference Between MS and Guillain-Barré Syndrome

March 21, 2016

Multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome are both autoimmune diseases where the protective myelin coverings of the nerves are attacked by one’s own immune system. Both conditions are considered inflammatory demyelinating diseases of the nervous system. There is no known cause or cure for either disease.

They differ in the fact that MS affects the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, which is the central nervous system. Lesions are scattered throughout areas in the brain and often affect the optic nerve causing impaired vision.

Guillain-Barré is the result of an attack on the peripheral nervous system by cells located near the peripheral nerve roots. The onset of Guillain-Barré is dramatic, with rapid demyelinating nerve impairment occurring within hours or days of being affected.

Guillain-Barré is actually an extremely rare disorder to contract, as only 1 in 100,000 people actually have it. It is often preceded by a viral or bacterial infection, and as said above, the onset is sudden and serious.

Treatments for MS are more effective for relapsing-remitting MS, to speed the recovery from attacks and slow the progression of the disease. Additional therapies such as physical therapy and muscle relaxants may be tried as well as alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga and massage.

The main treatments for Guillain-Barré are plasmaphoresis and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy. It is thought that plasmaphoresis helps remove antibodies and other damaging immune factors from the blood. Immunoglobulin is thought to boost the level of proteins immune cells use to block an attack by intruding organisms.