Can you fully recover from Guillain-Barré syndrome?

Full recovery from Guillain-Barre can happen, but it may take months to years.
Full recovery from Guillain-Barre can happen, but it may take months to years.

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) may last between 14 and 30 days and you may slowly recuperate from it. Usually, recovery  takes 6 to 12 months, but for some people it could take up to 3 years. Some people need surgery, physical therapy or orthopedic appliances to regain their strength completely, whereas others may recover completely within a few months.

What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder that affects the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves carry messages from the brain to the muscles resulting in muscle movement. These nerves also carry sensations, such as pain, from the body to the brain. Damage to peripheral nerves can result in muscle weakness often leading to paralysis, pain, tingling sensation or a certain amount of numbness. If the paralysis affects the chest muscle responsible for breathing problems, the patient can die due to a lack of oxygen.

GBS is rare and affects fewer than 4,000 people in the United States each year.

What causes Guillain-Barre syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disorder that destroys the myelin sheath, which acts as insulation to the nerves. Myelin helps in the quick transmission of electrical impulses down the nerve. Destruction of myelin can slow the speed of these impulses and disrupt them Without proper stimulation of the muscles via the nerves, they cannot function properly. Rarely, a vaccination may cause Guillain-Barre syndrome. There are increased reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome in the world because of Zika virus infections.

Other causes of GBS include

What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) starts with a tingling sensation in the feet or the hands or pain in the legs and back. Children may have difficulty walking. These symptoms pave way for the major symptoms, such as weakness. Muscle weakness needs medical attention because it may slowly develop into paralysis. Weakness often starts in the upper body and moves down to the legs and feet. Difficulty with climbing stairs and walking may be the first signs of weakness. The symptoms usually reach their peak during the third week.

Besides muscle weakness, other symptoms include

  • Difficulty with eye muscles and vision
  • Difficulty in swallowing, speaking or chewing
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pricking or pins and needles sensation in hands and feet
  • Problems with digestion and/or bladder control
  • Severe pain, especially at night
  • Double vision or inability to move eyes

The patient may take months or years to regain their previous strength.

What are the different types of Guillain-Barre syndrome?

There are different types of Guillain-Barre syndrome that include

  • Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP): This is the most common form of GBS that starts in the lower part of the body and spreads upwards.
  • Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS): This is associated with unsteady gait and paralysis in the eyes.
  • Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) and acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN): These are less common in the United States.

How is Guillain-Barre syndrome treated?

The majority of the patients with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) require hospitalization because the disorder can weaken the chest muscles causing difficulty in breathing. Close monitoring of blood pressure and cardiac function is also important.

Treatments for GBS include

  • Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange) is a process in which blood is extracted from patients and is separated into plasma and blood cells. The blood cells are then re-injected into the body. This helps to eliminate substances that attack the peripheral nerves.
  • Infusions of immunoglobulin may act by blocking the antibodies that are causing this disorder.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/1/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Harvard Medical School


NIH


Mayo Clinic


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