Guillain-Barré syndrome - Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome
NHS Choices Medical Reference
Guillain-Barré syndrome usually develops quickly, over a few days, but can sometimes develop gradually, over a period of up to four weeks.
Symptoms first appear one to three weeks after a minor infection, such as a cold or sore throat.
Symptoms tend to start in the feet and hands first and include:
- unsteadiness, and
- progressive muscle weakness.
These symptoms soon spread up the limbs, affecting the legs and arms a few days later.
You may find that you only have a mild form of the condition and your symptoms do not get any worse than a general feeling of weakness. In this case, you may need a walking frame or a crutch to help you to walk.
Possible later symptoms
In some people, the muscle weakness progresses to:
- temporary paralysis of the legs, arms and face,
- temporary paralysis of the respiratory muscles that control breathing (see Paralysis, below),
- difficulty with eye movement and speech,
- difficulty with chewing or swallowing (meaning you need to be fed by a tube into the stomach),
- difficulty with bladder control or digestion, and
- slow heart rate or low blood pressure.
About three-quarters of children with Guillain-Barré syndrome are unable to walk during this period.
The extent of paralysis varies with each case of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Guillain-Barré syndrome can be life threatening because it can paralyse your respiratory muscles and stop you from breathing. If this happens, you will need to be put on a ventilator (a machine that helps you to breathe). About one in four people need to be artifically ventilated.
This is why it is so important that you are closely monitored.
If you start to feel a tingling sensation in your toes, feet or legs, followed by muscle weakness, see your GP immediately or contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
Numbness: Numbness refers to a lack of sensation in a part of the body.
Pain: Pain is an unpleasant physical or emotional feeling that your body produces as a warning sign that it has been damaged.
Fever: A high temperature, also known as a fever, is when someone's body temperature goes above the normal 37°C (98.6°F).
Vomiting: Vomiting is when you bring up the contents of your stomach through your mouth.
Blood: Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Heart: The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood around the body.
Bladder: The bladder is a small organ near the pelvis that holds urine until it is ready to be passed from the body.