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Guillain-Barre Syndrome (cont.)

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Symptoms

  • Weakness on both sides of the body may develop with numbness that starts in the legs and progresses into the trunk and moves upward to the arms and neck.
  • Muscles that are controlled by nerves in the head may be involved. Muscle weakness near the involved nerves can be the most prominent sign.
  • Deep tendon reflexes are decreased or absent.
  • People can have weakness of facial muscles and some muscles in the throat.
  • Some may have respiratory failure due to muscle weakness. These people need to have a breathing tube put in and be placed on a ventilator to help them breathe. Five percent of people die from respiratory failure.
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), sweating, facial flushing, and variable blood pressure are signs the nervous system is affected.
  • The severity of symptoms peaks by the second or third week.
  • In certain forms of Guillain-Barre syndrome, people have weakness of eye muscles or unsteady gait. These symptoms overlap other syndromes such as botulism, thiamine deficiency, and myasthenia gravis. It is important to rule out other causes for these symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Care for Guillain-Barre Syndrome

If you think you may have symptoms of this condition, call your doctor for an evaluation.

If you lose feeling in an arm or a leg or feel that your arm or leg has become weak, this is a medical emergency. Go to a hospital's emergency department. This may be the sign of a stroke.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Exams and Tests

Diagnosis is based on a medical history and physical exam. The person will have weakness in their arms and legs. There may be weakness in muscles controlled by cranial nerves. The weakness progresses from the lower extremity to the trunk, upper extremity, and neck. The deep tendon reflexes may be diminished or absent.

  • There is no specific blood test to diagnose Guillain-Barre syndrome.
  • A lumbar puncture (spinal tap in which fluid is taken) can evaluate the cerebrospinal fluid. The analysis will show increased protein without the increase in the number of cells.
  • Nerve conduction analysis will reveal slow nerve conduction velocities due to the damage to the nerve.
  • Lab work that screens for the following diseases should be performed to rule them out: mumps, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and myasthenia gravis.

Self-Care at Home for Guillain-Barre Syndrome

There is no home care for this syndrome. Once diagnosed, follow your doctor's instructions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/5/2016
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Guillain-Barre Syndrome in Childhood »

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), or acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), is characterized by progressive motor weakness and areflexia.

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