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Immune-mediated neuropathies

Dale Lange, MD
Jessica Robinson-Papp, MD
Section Editor
Jeremy M Shefner, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
John F Dashe, MD, PhD


Polyneuropathy may be defined broadly as the dysfunction of many or all nerves. It is useful to classify polyneuropathies into two general categories based on pathophysiology: axonal and demyelinating. Axonal neuropathies cause symptoms and signs related to axon loss, while demyelinating neuropathies produce abnormalities based on the lack of appropriate interaction of Schwann cells with axons. The distinction between axonal and demyelinating polyneuropathies is clinically important because it guides the differential diagnosis, and ultimately the approach to treatment. Axonal neuropathies may be caused by a broad spectrum of systemic illnesses. The differential diagnosis of demyelinating neuropathies includes immune-mediated, toxic, and hereditary etiologies. In this article we specifically address the immune-mediated polyneuropathies, with emphasis on the demyelinating neuropathies.


Immune-mediated neuropathies can be divided into acute and chronic forms.

The acute immune-mediated polyneuropathies are classified under the eponym Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a heterogeneous condition with several variant forms (see "Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults: Clinical features and diagnosis"). These include:

Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP)

Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 03, 2017.
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