Symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
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Symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome

No one knows what actually triggers Guillain-Barré syndrome; it is a fairly rare nerve disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves of the body. This syndrome is characterized by nerve damage that occurs after an infection.

No one knows what actually triggers Guillain-Barré syndrome; it is a fairly rare nerve disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves of the body. This syndrome is characterized by nerve damage that occurs after an infection. Once the nerve damage has started to occur, the individual may experience generalized tingling and muscle weakness. The individual with Guillain-Barré syndrome may first notice the tingling and muscle weakness in the extremities; as the syndrome progresses these symptoms may continue to the rest of the body.

As Guillain-Barré syndrome progresses a person with this disorder may begin to have limb paralysis and breathing difficulties. People who suffer from breathing difficulties need emergency care from time to time; they may need to be connected to a life support system, in the form of a respirator.

Possible causes for Guillain-Barré syndrome

It is possible to develop Guillain-Barré syndrome after having a throat or gastrointestinal infection. Although, it is quite rare, it is possible to develop this syndrome after having a vaccination or a surgical procedure. It’s not known how Guillain-Barré syndrome triggers an autoimmune response; for some reason the immune system produces antibodies to attack the nerves.

Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome

The symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome include generalized fatigue and weakness in the extremities; tingling sensations may be felt in the lower legs. The tingling sensations occur prior to the onset of paralysis. These symptoms will usually be enough to send the individual to the doctor. On examination, the doctor may discover that the reflexes (knee-jerk reaction) in the lower legs are absent.

As Guillain-Barré syndrome progresses the individual may experience the inability to make facial expressions. The muscles of the face don’t express the feelings and emotions because the facial nerves have been compromised. The speech may be slurred due to the facial and tongue muscles being paralyzed due to nerve damage. If the individual presents to the doctor with these symptoms, the medical professional should suspect the patient could possibly have Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Diagnosis and treatment of Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is not classified as a disease, because there is no disease causing organisms present with this disorder; therefore, the condition is classified as a syndrome. The doctor will need to put the patient through a battery of tests to determine that there is no underlying condition causing the symptoms. Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) will be collected via a spinal tap; the CSF will be tested for the presence of disease causing organisms. The doctor will also test the CSF for an electrolyte imbalance. Patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome usually have a high level of sodium in the CSF. The doctor will also test the patient’s nerve conduction via a test called a nerve conduction velocity test. This test (NCV) helps to identify the nerves which have trouble conducting impulses.

Some patients having Guillain-Barré syndrome are treated with high doses of immunoglobulin through an IV injection to help improve the function of the immune system. The patient may also need to have his/her blood filtered through a process called plasmapheresis to filter out the offending antibodies.

If and when the respiratory muscles become affected, the patient will need to be on life support. The patient with Guillain-Barré syndrome will die if he/she cannot move air in and out of the lungs via the diaphragm muscles.


Some people with Guillain-Barré syndrome do get well. There is no cookie cutter treatment that is right for everyone. Each person is an individual and should be medically treated as individuals. Some people do recover from this syndrome, but it takes a long time for the nerves to regenerate. A person recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome will need physical therapy to regain the use of his/her muscles. There is no way to prevent Guillain-Barré syndrome from occurring; it just seems to happen to some people. The good news is that with proper care, a person with this syndrome can live a normal life span.

Sources:é -syndrome/DS00413

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Comments (1)

I've heard of this on the health channel... Scary! Thanks for additional information.