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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

What is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)?

GBS is a rare condition that causes damage to nerves that control movement and your sense of touch. You may have mild symptoms, such as muscle weakness. You may have more serious symptoms, such as paralysis. GBS happens because your immune system attacks nerve cells by mistake. GBS can happen at any age, but it is more common in adults.

What causes or increases my risk for GBS?

The cause of GBS is not known. You may get GBS after you have a cold or the flu, or after surgery. Vaccines may cause GBS, but this is very rare. The flu vaccine is the most common vaccine associated with GBS. Your risk is also increased if you have HIV or become infected with the Zika virus. You cannot catch GBS by being around someone who has it.

What are the signs and symptoms of GBS?

Symptoms may begin quickly, be severe or life-threatening, and may take months to go away. You may have more than one of the following:

How is GBS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about other health conditions you may have. Your provider will check your reflexes and how your pupils react to light. Your memory, hand grasp, and balance may also be checked. You may also need any of the following:

How is GBS treated?

GBS cannot be cured. Treatment will depend on your symptoms:

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

What can I do to manage GBS?

You can help build your strength and stay safe while you recover. This can help prevent the need for treatment in the hospital or an emergency department.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone call if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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