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: Annie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 16

I experienced extreme fatigue after work and went right to bed. I experienced severe leg cramps during the night. Next day legs were weak which I attributed to the leg cramps. Then that night I had a severe back ache that lasted all day. I went to a football game that night and felt overall tired and weak. Next day I spent all day in bed, then following day I could not stand or walk. I went to a small hospital emergency room (ER) where they thought I was having a stroke and transferred me to larger hospital. Blood tests, MRI, and lots of morphine later they diagnosed me with West Nile virus and said they could only treat symptoms and the rest would heal on its own. I saw a neurologist at the hospital. I returned home and was in a lot of pain and continued to get weaker. Another trip to local ER ended up with more pain medicine but no improvement. I was sent home again and within a week I had constant nausea and continued to get weaker every day. I called my new neurologist who told me to go to a larger hospital ER. Within hours of getting to the ER they predicted Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) and admitted me. I was given more MRIs, a spinal tap and then 5 treatments of IVIG. Then I was sent home to follow up with 4 more outpatient IVIG infusions and physical therapy 3 times a week. I have finished my last IVIG for now and can now walk with a cane for short distances and continue to improve every day. It's been 5 weeks since I left the hospital unable to walk, stand or put myself to bed. I now take only tramadol at night to help me sleep. I am now driving myself to therapy and start back to work next week as tolerated. I expect to walk without a cane by the end of the year. My only regret is that the entire illness was not diagnosed the first time as, if treatment had begun sooner I would probably be 100 percent recovered by now. My neurologist does expect me to have a full recovery and I will not allow myself to have anything less.

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Comment from: francois, 45-54 Female Published: January 26

The only medication which works for my cluster headaches is prednisone 5 milligram. After15 minutes, I am pain free.

Was this comment helpful?Yes


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