Health and Medicine

Diseases, Disorders, and Other Health Problems

What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome?

Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The immune system starts to destroy the myelin sheath that surrounds the axons of many peripheral nerves, or even the axons themselves. The loss of the myelin sheath surrounding the axons slows down the transmission of nerve signals and muscles begin to lose their ability to respond to the brain’s commands. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. In severe cases the patient may be almost totally paralyzed since the muscles cannot be used at all. In these cases the disorder is life threatening because it potentially interferes with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate. Such a patient is often put on a respirator to assist with breathing and is watched closely for problems such as an abnormal heart beat, infections, blood clots, and high or low blood pressure. Most patients, however, recover from even the most severe cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, although some continue to have a certain degree of weakness.


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