Editor's note: On Sunday, the News-Leader learned doctors now believe Art Hains has West Nile virus and not Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Missouri State University athletics broadcaster Art Hains is in critical condition with what is believed to be Guillain-Barre Syndrome, according to his son. Hains is known as "The Voice of the Bears," calling MSU's football, basketball and baseball games over the radio. He also hosts the drive-time radio show "SportsTalk" on Jock 96.9. News-Leader sports reporter Wyatt Wheeler co-hosts the show with him.
What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a neurological disorder where the body's immune system attacks the body itself. While the immune system generally only attacks foreign material and organisms, in GBS, it attacks the myelin sheaths that insulate the axons of nerve cells, and sometimes the axons themselves, according to Johns Hopkins.
Since the nervous system communicates movement and sensations through electrical impulses, the myelin insulation is crucial in allowing those impulses to travel quickly and efficiently. When that insulation is damaged, it can slow down or stop communication.
GBS is characterized by symptoms that appear in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months, symptoms on both sides of the body and a loss of reflexes. A lumbar puncture — or spinal tap — will show high levels of protein in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spine. Symptoms may start as weakness or tingling in the legs. In most cases, muscle weakness starts in the legs and spreads to the arms, according to the NIH.
The exact cause of GBS is not known, but it is not contagious or inherited, according to the National Institutes for Health. Some cases start after a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection, others after surgery, and, in very rare cases, vaccinations may increase risk.
What are treatment options?
There are no treatments available for the disorder itself, only to help mitigate the symptoms or prevent complications.
For example, a ventilator may be used to support breathing, blood thinners may be used to prevent blood clots and physical therapy may be used to keep joints and muscles healthy.
According the NIH, there are currently two treatments that are used to interrupt nerve damage caused by the immune system: plasma exchange and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy.
In plasma exchange, blood cells from the liquid part of the blood are extracted and returned to the person. "This technique seems to reduce the severity and duration of the Guillain-Barré episode," according to the NIH. It is thought to work by removing antibodies that have been damaging nerves.
High-dose immunoglobulin therapy works to help decrease the immune system's attack on the nervous system.
What about recovery?
Most people survive GBS, with 70% eventually recovering fully, according to the NIH, and 30% experiencing residual weakness. Recovery of movement may be slow or incomplete.
"With careful intensive care and successful treatment of infection, autonomic dysfunction and other medical complications, even those individuals with respiratory failure usually survive," according to the NIH fact sheet.
How common is it?
The disorder is rare. The NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates it affects one person in 100,000 each year. GBS is more common in adults and older people, and both sexes are equally prone to it.
Notable people with GBS include American actor Andy Griffith and former Chicago Bears football player William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
How do you say Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
The illness is named after the French neurologists who identified it in 1916: Georges Guillain and Jean Alexandre Barre. So, you pronounce it as "gee-YAH-buh-RAY."
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Art Haines is believed to have Guillain-Barre Syndrome. What is it?