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: JoshBee, 19-24 Male (Patient) Published: September 10

I'm 23 years old. I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) about a year ago September 2014. Day 1 I felt numbness and tingling in my toes, day 2 I had numbness, pain, weakness and back pain, and day 3 I could barely walk. I kept on falling and couldn't get up. The general doctor suggested an MRI and blood work. All came back good. I went to a chiropractor thinking it might be a slipped disc. I was advised to see a neurologist who told me I probably have GBS (which I had no clue back then what that animal is). At my worst stage my hands and legs were weak that I couldn't use them. I had 2 weeks at the hospital, 5 treatments of IVIG and some physical therapy. Then I went to acute rehabilitation for a week. Today, a year later it is still hard to climb stairs, I can't run or jump, but thanks goodness I'm functioning. And to all of my brothers and sisters out there suffering, you will make it through! Stay strong!

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Comment from: lizrecovering, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 06

On Monday July 13, 2015 I came home from work and all of a sudden had a horrible cough and flu like symptoms. I nursed myself thinking it was a summer cold or flu. On Thursday July 16 I got in to the doctor and she told me it may be a virus but prescribed me amoxicillin for my sinusitis, ear fluid and lungs. By Monday July 20 I thought I was feeling better when exactly at the same time after work driving home, I started losing feeling in my legs. I thought it was restless leg syndrome. It hurt so badly. I went back to doctor on Tuesday July 21, told blood tests were fine, just a virus that has to get through me. Legs hurt so bad I went to the emergency room (ER) that night. Still no diagnosis as all tests were normal. They gave me pain pills and sent me home. Thursday went back to doctor for follow up. My legs were better but I was starting to lose vision, and still no one could figure out the problem. Friday morning July 24, 2015, I was working at home and all of a sudden my left eye started pulling, my vision got worse, arms and hands tingling and I couldn't walk; I thought I was having a stroke. I went to the ER and thank goodness that doctor realized it was neurological. I found a neurologist who clinically diagnosed me with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) with the Miller Fisher variation. My spinal fluid came back clear which is really weird. My paralysis continued through my body. I was in hospital for 5 days with IVIG treatment and transferred to rehabilitation facility for 3 weeks. I had to learn to walk, and re-use my arms and hands, etc. My swallowing and speech came back quickly. It is now October 2, I still have tingling in my toes and feet and legs but can walk without my walker. My arms are still weak but right arm is improving faster than left side. I still cannot raise arms higher than my waist, and still have double vision. My nerve pain is incredible though I am on gabapentin. At night it is worse and it feels like someone has poured cement on my spine and arms when I lie down. It is hard to sleep but I take medication for that unfortunately. I didn't have it in rehabilitation. I hope it is a sign of healing but it is very weird. My diagnosis is to get back to 100 percent as I was a healthy, strong working woman and plan to be again. I hope this information helps others.

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