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What Is Guillain Barre Syndrome?

Guillain Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. A tingling sensation is typically the first sign, followed by weakness. This feeling can spread quickly throughout the entire body and can result in paralysis and nerve damage. The cause of Guillain Barre syndrome remains unknown; however, most cases are reported after a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection.

Guillain Barre Syndrome Symptoms and Effects

Patients with Guillain Barre syndrome feel tingling in the feet or hands. Many children feel pain in their back and/or legs. Weakness on both sides of the body is the biggest symptom and can make it difficult for a child to walk. It can spread to the arms, breathing muscles and face. This feeling can progress over hours, days or weeks. In general, however, symptoms peak within the first two weeks.

Other symptoms can include difficulty swallowing, coordination problems, abnormal heartbeat or blood pressure, and problems with digestion and/or bladder control.

Guillain Barre Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment

There are several forms of Guillain Barre syndrome, each based on a patient’s specific symptoms:

  • Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP) is the most common. It starts with muscle weakness in the lower part of the body and spreads upwards
  • Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS), where paralysis starts in the eyes
  • Acute Motor and Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN), which includes distal weakness, loss of tendon reflexes and sensory symptoms

While there is no known cure for Guillain Barre syndrome, there are many different treatments available that can ease symptoms and aid in recovery. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is the most commonly used treatment. Healthy plasma is infused into the veins to help fight off infections. A plasma exchange is sometimes used instead of IVIG. During this procedure, a machine removes blood from a vein and filters out the harmful antibodies before returning the healthy blood back into the body.

Your Care Team

At Gillette, your child will be in the care of some of the nation’s top providers of comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation care for children and teens. Your family will also have access to our vast array of medical and surgical specialties. To learn more about how we can help, call 651-290-8707.