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Guillain-Barré Syndrome

This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

Guillain-Barré (Ghee-yan Bah-ray) syndrome is a rare illness where the body’s immune system attacks its own nerves.

The basics

Who gets Guillain-Barré syndrome?

Although rare, the illness can affect anyone. This illness usually occurs a few days or weeks after a respiratory or stomach illness. Sometimes Guillain-Barré syndrome can occur after vaccinations, surgery, or pregnancy.

What causes Guillain-Barré syndrome?

It is not known what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome.

How does Guillain-Barré syndrome spread?

Guillain-Barré syndrome does not spread from person-to-person. 


What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome?

First symptoms occur suddenly and include weakness or a feeling of “pins and needles” in the legs. This feeling can spread to the arms and upper body. Over the next few weeks, symptoms either stay the same or become more severe, leading to paralysis of certain muscles. Severe symptoms include trouble moving body parts, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, and heart palpitations. These symptoms are rare but need immediate medical attention. Recovery is often slow, lasting over 6 months; but, most people recover completely.


How can I prevent Guillain-Barré syndrome?

There is no known way to prevent Guillain-Barré syndrome.


What is the treatment for Guillain-Barré syndrome?

There is no known cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome. Therapy is usually geared towards supportive care and lessens the severity of the illness.

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