The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nerve wrecker in stroke garb
- Neuro disorder baffles doctors with symptoms of heart attack

When a 33-year-old woman became too debilitated to move after a bout of viral fever and diarrhoea, a general practitioner (GP) said she was suffering from post-viral weakness and it shouldn’t bother her. Four days later, the woman’s condition worsened. She experienced acute muscle pain and developed double vision. The doctor put it down to a stroke. Within a few days, she was dead, despite attempts to revive her at the ITU of a top hospital.

This is not a rare case. Doctors are puzzled over the outbreak of Guillaine Barre Syndrome — a neurological disease affecting the nerves and paralysing the muscles — that is often mistaken by GPs for a stroke, a case of severe viral fever, or even a cardiac arrest.

Recently, a woman was admitted to a cardiac centre near the EM Bypass, with respiratory problems. Cardiologists, however, found that the woman’s heart was in perfect condition. A visiting neurologist was requested to take a look at the patient. Subsequent electro-physiological and protein tests revealed that the woman had all the classic symptoms of GB Syndrome, also known as “acute inflammatory polyneuropathy.”

The disease begins with viral infection, or diarrhoea, that weakens the body’s fighting mechanism fast. The nerves start to get affected, paralysing the legs and the upper limbs. Aches and pains in the neck, upper limb muscles and arms and thighs follow. Several patients develop double vision or a squint in the eye. The nerves controlling the heart muscles also get affected, causing acute respiratory problems. Nearly 70 per cent cases respond to lengthy medication and 30 per cent die without being diagnosed, say doctors. Treatment involves medication and filtering toxin levels in the plasma.

A recent survey of stroke patients completed by the head of department (neurology) Tapas Banerjee revealed that several cases of GB Syndrome were mistaken for stroke. “During the survey, I found patients who said they had suffered a stroke a few months before. Subsequent examinations revealed that it was a clear case of GB Syndrome,” said Banerjee.

He is now studying the rate of incidence through research work, including prevalence of polio virus in teenage patients.

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