Medical Definition of Acute idiopathic polyneuritis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Acute idiopathic polyneuritis: Also known as the Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder characterized by progressive symmetrical paralysis and loss of reflexes, usually beginning in the leg, with in most cases nearly complete or complete recovery.

The Guillain-Barre syndrome is not associated with fever. There is paralysis involving more than one limb, most commonly the legs, and that paralysis is progressive. There is areflexia (loss of reflexes) or hyporeflexia (diminution of reflexes) in the legs and arms. Other conditions that may mimic the Guillain-Barre syndrome need to be ruled out.

The Guillain-Barre syndrome is due to an immune response that results in the direct destruction of the myelin sheath surrounding the peripheral nerves or the axon of the nerve itself.

The syndrome sometimes follow triggering events, including vaccinations. Among the vaccines reportedly associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome are the swine influenza vaccine (in 1976-1977), the oral poliovirus vaccine, and tetanus toxoid. Aside from vaccinations, infection with the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni and viral infections can trigger the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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