What are common symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Unexplained sensations often occur first, such as tingling in the feet or hands, or even pain (especially in children), often starting in the legs or back. Children will also show symptoms with difficulty walking and may refuse to walk. These sensations tend to disappear before the major, longer-term symptoms appear.  Weakness on both sides of the body is the major symptom that prompts most people to seek medical attention. The weakness may first appear as difficulty climbing stairs or with walking. Symptoms often affect the arms, breathing muscles, and even the face, reflecting more widespread nerve damage. Occasionally symptoms start in the upper body and move down to the legs and feet.
 

Most people reach the greatest stage of weakness within the first two weeks after symptoms appear; by the third week 90 percent of affected individuals are at their weakest.
 

In addition to muscle weakness, symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty with eye muscles and vision
     
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking, or chewing
     
  • Pricking or pins and needles sensations in the hands and feet
     
  • Pain that can be severe, particularly at night
     
  • Coordination problems and unsteadiness
     
  • Abnormal heart beat/rate or blood pressure
     
  • Problems with digestion and/or bladder control.

 

These symptoms can increase in intensity over a period of hours, days, or weeks until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases, the disorder is life-threatening—potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate.

 

 

 

 


Sources:

  • “Guillain-Barre Syndrome: What It Is and How It's Treated.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/brain/what-is-guillain-barre#1.

  • “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/. 

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