There are 3 common nerve conditions that have been linked to vaccinations. They are Guillain-Barre syndrome, also known as GBS, Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, known as CIDP, and Brachial Neuritis. For this article, let’s look at what each condition entails.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious disorder that occurs when the body’s defense (immune) system mistakenly attacks part of the nervous system. This leads to nerve inflammation that causes muscle weakness.
It is an autoimmune disorder (the body’s immune system attacks itself). Exactly what triggers Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown. The syndrome may occur at any age, but is most common in people of both sexes between ages 30 and 50.
It often follows a minor infection, such as a lung infection or gastrointestinal infection. Most of the time, signs of the original infection have disappeared before the symptoms of Guillain-Barre begin.
The swine flu vaccination in 1976 may have caused rare cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, CDC claims the swine flu and the regular flu vaccines used today have not resulted in more cases of the illness.
Guillain-Barre syndrome damages parts of nerves. This nerve damage causes tingling, muscle weakness and paralysis. Guillain-Barre syndrome most often affects the nerve’s covering (myelin sheath). Such damage is called demyelination and it causes nerve signals to move more slowly. Damage to other parts of the nerve can cause the nerve to stop working altogether.
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a neurological disorder characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms. The disorder, which is sometimes called chronic relapsing polyneuropathy, is caused by damage to the myelin sheath (the fatty covering that wraps around and protects nerve fibers) of the peripheral nerves.
Although it can occur at any age and in both genders, CIDP is more common in young adults and in men more so than women. It often presents with symptoms that include tingling or numbness (beginning in the toes and fingers), weakness of the arms and legs, loss of deep tendon reflexes (areflexia), fatigue and abnormal sensations.
CIDP is closely related to Guillain-Barre syndrome and it is considered the chronic counterpart of that acute disease.
Brachial neuritis, also known as neuralgic amyotrophy or Parsonage-Turner syndrome, is clinically characterized by acute onset of severe pain in the shoulder and/or arm, followed within days and weeks by weakness, wasting and variable sensory impairment due to involvement of the brachial plexus or its component nerves.
Frequent association with an antecedent event points to immune pathogenesis; however, CSF examination is usually normal, and diagnosis is based on EMG and nerve conduction studies, which help localize the lesion to the brachial plexus and distinguish the syndrome from peripheral focal neuropathy and cervical radiculopathy.
A familial form of brachial neuritis, a hereditary neuralgic amyotrophy, occuring at a younger age may cause recurrent or bilateral brachial plexopathy and is associated with septin (SEPT9) mutation.
Management of brachial neuritis consists of pain control, physical therapy and supportive treatment. There is anecdotal evidence for the benefit of corticosteroid or intravenous immunoglobulin treatment in the acute phase.
The clinical course of brachial neuritis is usually monophasic with good recovery of function within 1 to 2 years in the majority of patients.