Guillain-Barre Syndrome - Symptoms

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What is Guillain-Barré syndrome?

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the patient is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases the disorder is life threatening - potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate - and is considered a medical emergency. Such a patient is often put on a respirator to assist with breathing and is watched closely for problems such as an abnormal heart beat, infections, blood clots, and high or low blood pressure. Most patients, however, recover from even the most severe cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, although some continue to have a certain degree of weakness.

Guillain-Barré syndrome can affect anybody. It can strike at any age and both sexes are equally prone to the disorder. The syndrome is rare, however, afflicting only about one person in 100,000. Usually Guillain-Barré occurs a few days or weeks after the patient has had symptoms of a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. Occasionally surgery or vaccinations will trigger the syndrome.

After the first clinical manifestations of the disease, the symptoms can progress over the course of hours, days, or weeks. Most people reach the stage of greatest weakness within the first 2 weeks after symptoms appear, and by the third week of the illness 90 percent of all patients are at their weakest.

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Comment from: blessed, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 28

I am a patient who is being treated for Guillain-Barre syndrome. My first symptoms were tingling hands and feet and weakness in my legs. I went to the emergency room and they sent me home saying I was having a drug reaction to a medicine that my doctor had given me. The next morning I could not walk. I went back to the ER at a different hospital and was immediately told they thought I had Guillain-Barre and began treatment for this. They said Guillain does not necessarily show up in the first testing but will show up in the second. I was treated by taking out spinal fluid and given plasma over a course of 5 days. I had severe back pain with this illness, loss of leg function, and numbness below my arms. My arms were affected by limited movement. Also numbness in my face and mouth as if I had been given a Novacaine shot from the dentist. Luckily I began recovery rather quickly, full movement of my arms began about 3 days after treatment. I am 5 weeks into my diagnosis and I can walk without a walker. I have tingling in my fingers and feet still but feel like I am on a great road to recovery thanks to my doctors and my therapists. I do get tired quickly after workouts but feel that after more time this will improve.

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Comment from: Richard 10, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: March 07

I must be in the 30% range of those who still have major problems from GBS (Guillain-Barre syndrome). I was diagnosed in February of 2013 and still today am disabled and home bound for the majority of the days. I still have chronic fatigue, tingling, muscle burning, and what I call electric shock. My motor skills are off just a little and my memory is off some as well. I am feeling a little better but still have sick all over feelings from time to time. I hope my story helps those in the 30% not recovering quickly range.

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