Jenna Jameson misdiagnosed with rare autoimmune disease: What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

·4 min read
Jenna Jameson has been hospitalized with a rare autoimmune disorder. (Image via Getty Images)
Jenna Jameson has been hospitalized with a rare autoimmune disorder. (Image via Getty Images)

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Jenna Jameson remains in hospital after being misdiagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder.

On Monday, Jameson's husband Lior Bitton took to Instagram to tell the star's fans that doctors have ruled out Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a disorder that leads to muscle weakness and sometimes even paralysis.

According to Bitton, Jameson underwent five rounds of Intravenous Immunoglobulin therapy (IVG) and received a second test which prompted doctors to change their initial GBS diagnosis. Bitton says doctors are still performing neurological tests to determine why the 47-year-old adult-film star remains "unable to walk" or stand.

Last week, Jameson took to Instagram to share the news of her GBS diagnosis with fans. At the time, Jameson assured fans that the disorder, which has been reported as a rare side effect of certain COVID-19 vaccines, was not caused by receiving the vaccine since she "did not get the jab or any jab."

Jenna Jameson has been hospitalized in Hawaii after being diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. (Image via Getty Images)
Jenna Jameson has been hospitalized in Hawaii after being diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. (Image via Getty Images)

What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Guillain-Barré Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes your own immune system to attack the peripheral nerves outside your brain and spinal cord. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, GBS affects approximately one in 100,000 people.

What are the symptoms associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Most often Guillain-Barré Syndrome begins with numbness and/or a pins and needles sensation in your feet, followed by muscle weakness. Although it affects your feet and legs at first, the condition does progress upwards towards the arms and breathing muscles.

According to Dr. Zaeem Siddiqi, a neurologist and professor of neurology at the University of Alberta, the symptoms are commonly symmetric, meaning that they affect both sides of the body at the same time, unlike a stroke that usually influences only one side.

Once a diagnosis is made the patient is hospitalized for close monitoring of lung function, breathing, motor strength and blood pressure changes.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke calls GBS a rapidly progressing disorder and notes that symptoms can increase in intensity over a span of hours to days and weeks. In its most severe state, a person can become paralyzed and may require admission to intensive care for respiratory support.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is often diagnosed following some kind of infection. (Image via Getty Images)
Guillain-Barré syndrome is often diagnosed following some kind of infection. (Image via Getty Images)

What causes Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

While the exact cause of Guillain-Barré Syndrome is unknown, experts say those who suffer from the disorder typically experience an infection prior to their diagnosis.

“Sixty to 70 per cent of times we can find a preceding trigger about one to four weeks preceding the onset of neurological symptoms,” Siddiqi explains in an interview with Yahoo Canada.

The Mayo Clinic lists respiratory and gastrointestinal infections as triggers, including flu, diarrhea and surgery.

Can COVID-19 vaccines cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

While Jameson stipulated that she did not develop GBS as a result of a COVID vaccine, the illness has been linked as a potential side effect of certain COVID vaccines. Albeit a rare occurrence, the nerve disorder can be seen after COVID-19 infection and in some rare instances, within six weeks after a person receives the vaccine.

In July 2021, the European Medicines Agency listed GBS as a potential side effect of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Although GBS can occur after all formulations, the most cases of the condition linked to vaccination have been with the Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines because these use a different formulation of the virus, the neurologist explains.

“If a patient had vaccine associated GBS in the past, in those patients we would recommend no vaccine, but otherwise almost all patients are recommended to get vaccination for COVID,” Siddiqi says.

COVID infections can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome more often than the COVID vaccine. (Image via Getty Images).
COVID infections can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome more often than the COVID vaccine. (Image via Getty Images).

How is Guillain-Barré syndrome treated?

While there is no cure for the autoimmune disease, there are two effective treatment options available that can shorten the length of symptoms.

The more common of the two and the one more readily available in most hospitals is Intravenous Immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG), which filters antibodies in donor's blood, and then infuses them into a patient with GBS.

Plasma exchange is another treatment that is only available in major Canadian hospitals, according to Siddiqi. It involves removing the liquid portion of the patient’s blood, or the plasma, and replacing it with either plasma from a donor or another solution.

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