How does Guillain-Barre Syndrome affect daily life?

The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown. But it is often preceded by an infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or the stomach flu.

There's no known cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness. Most people recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome, though some may experience lingering effects from it, such as weakness, numbness or fatigue.

Guillain-Barré syndrome can be a devastating disorder because of its sudden and rapid, unexpected onset of weakness—and usually actual paralysis. Fortunately, 70% of people with GBS eventually experience full recovery. With careful intensive care and successful treatment of infection, autonomic dysfunction and other medical complications, even those individuals with respiratory failure usually survive.

Typically, the point of greatest weakness occurs days to at most 4 weeks after the first symptoms occur. Symptoms then stabilize at this level for a period of days, weeks, or, sometimes months. Recovery, however, can be slow or incomplete. The recovery period may be as little as a few weeks up to a few years. Some individuals still report ongoing improvement after 2 years. About 30 percent of those with Guillain-Barré have residual weakness after 3 years. About 3 percent may suffer a relapse of muscle weakness and tingling sensations many years after the initial attack. About 15 percent of individuals experience long-term weakness; some may require ongoing use of a walker, wheelchair, or ankle support. Muscle strength may not return uniformly.

Ongoing fatigue, pain, and other annoying sensations can sometimes be troublesome. Fatigue is best handled by pacing activities and providing time for rest when fatigue sets in. Those with Guillain-Barré syndrome face not only physical difficulties, but emotionally painful periods as well. It is often extremely difficult for individuals to adjust to sudden paralysis and dependence on others for help with routine daily activities. Individuals sometimes need psychological counseling to help them adapt. Support groups can often ease emotional strain and provide valuable information.

 

 

 

 


Sources:

  • “Guillain-Barre Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 May 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/guillain-barre-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20362793.

  • “Guillain-Barré Syndrome Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Guillain-Barre-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet.

  • “Guillain-Barré Syndrome.” NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders), rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/guillain-barre-syndrome/. 

  • Newman, Tim. “Guillain-Barré Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 19 Dec. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/167892.php.

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