Guillain - Barre Syndrome can be defined as a rare disorder in which the body’s defence mechanism assumes the various nerves as a pathogen and attacks. These attacks are usually in the form of a tingling sensation that spreads rapidly and ultimately leads to complete paralysis of the body. In most cases, it is a severe medical emergency where the patient needs to be hospitalized immediately.
guillian barre syndrome


Being quite a rare condition, the exact cause of the disease is yet unknown but few instances show that this syndrome is usually diagnosed after a severe gastrointestinal or respiratory infection. The Guillain-Barre syndrome usually triggers the white blood cells to turn against the body, attacking the protective covering of the nerves, i.e. the myelin sheath. This disrupts the myelin sheath which in turn averts the nerves from transmitting signals to the brain, causing weakness, numbness, or paralysis. Also Read: Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Risk Factors

Though Guillain-Barre syndrome can affect individuals of all age groups, it is usually diagnosed in males than in females. Other diseased conditions that trigger the syndrome are:


Guillain-Barre syndrome can occur in several forms, which are:

Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP):

AIDP usually starts as a form of weakness in the lower part of the body and then gradually spreads up. This type is more common in Europe and North America.

Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS):

Associated with an unsteady gait, in this type, the paralysis usually starts from the eyes and is more common in Asian countries.

Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN) and Acute Motor-Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN):

Quite a rare form of the Guillain-Barre syndrome, this type is usually noticed in people belonging to Japan, China, and Mexico.


Guillain-Barre syndrome usually starts in the form of a weakness in the face or arms and then gradually progresses towards the muscles and ultimately causing paralysis. Once a person gets affected with the syndrome the common signs and symptoms usually start appearing within 2-4 weeks and includes:

  • Prickling, and tingling sensations in the toes, fingers, ankles or wrists
  • Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Inability to move the eyeballs or double vision
  • Extreme pain that may feel tender, or cramp-like and may be worse at night
  • Weakness in the legs that spreads to the upper extremities
  • Inability to walk or climb the stairs
  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low or high blood pressure


If the Guillain-Barre syndrome is left untreated, it may lead to several complications since the nerves form a crucial part of signalling movements and helping in other body functions. The various complications include:

  • Extreme debilitating pain
  • Blood clots
  • Pressure sores
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heart and blood pressure problems
  • Problems with the urinary bladder or bowel function
  • Residual numbness
  • Relapse

Diagnosis And Treatment

Since the symptoms are quite vague in the initial stages, the symptoms usually appear like any other neurological disorder. But it is strongly suggested to take the patient to the doctor immediately so that it can be diagnosed at the earliest and the correct treatment can be started. The doctor or neurologist usually diagnoses the patient by a thorough physical check-up and acknowledges the person’s past medical history followed by the following diagnostics:

  • Nerve Conduction studies
  • Electromyography
  • Spinal Tap or Lumbar Puncture


Though there is no absolute cure for GBS, most people recover from this painful condition having some lingering effects like fatigue, numbness, or weakness. The available treatment options include:

  • Plasmapheresis or plasma exchange procedure
  • Immunoglobulin therapy
  • Medications to provide relief from pain and prevent coagulation of blood
  • Physiotherapy