Guillain-Barré syndrome (say "ghee-YAN bah-RAY") is a problem with your
nervous system. It causes muscle weakness, loss of
reflexes, and numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, face, and other parts of
This rare condition can cause paralysis and
lead to death. But most people get better and have few lasting problems.
What causes Guillain-Barré syndrome?
know what causes it. They think that the nerves are attacked by your body's
own defense system (the immune system). This is called an
In Guillain-Barré syndrome, the immune
system attacks the covering (myelin sheath) of certain nerves. This
causes nerve damage.
Infections that may trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome
It usually begins to affect the nerves after you've had a
bacterial infection. Often it is after an infection of
the lungs or stomach and intestines.
Infections that may trigger
which can cause a type of food poisoning.
If the diagnosis
isn't clear, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the nervous
How is it treated?
This syndrome usually is treated in the
hospital. The hospital staff will watch you carefully to be sure you don't get
worse or get an infection. Your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are
carefully tracked. Some people need a ventilator to help them breathe.
In a plasma exchange, blood is taken out of
your body. The harmful antibodies are removed from the blood, and then the
blood is returned to your body.
In IVIG, helpful antibodies are
added to your blood.
These treatments may help your body fight the disease and
may speed your recovery if they are used when you first get sick. You may need to stay in the hospital for weeks or longer, until your symptoms have improved.
Sometimes this condition can come back. Both plasma exchange and IVIG therapy may be needed to reduce the severity of a relapse.
How long will it take to recover?
You may need 3 to 6 months or longer to recover. And you may have to wait several months before you can return to your
Many people have long-term effects, such as numbness in the toes and fingers. In most cases, these problems won't get in the way of your daily life. Some people have more serious problems, such as long-term weakness or balance problems.
Support at home is important during this time. You
may need some help with some of your activities and chores until you're stronger.
Regular exercise can help you strengthen your weakened muscles. Talk to your doctor
about exercising during your recovery. If you have severe muscle weakness, you may need
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