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Guillain-Barré syndrome - Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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The symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome can develop quickly over a few hours. The muscle weakness often gets progressively worse within a few days.

The symptoms usually develop one to three weeks after a minor infection, such as a cold, sore throat or gastroenteritis (an infection of the stomach and large intestine).

Symptoms often start in your feet and hands before spreading to your arms and then your legs. Initially, you may have:

  • pain, tingling and numbness 
  • progressive muscle weakness
  • co-ordination problems and unsteadiness (you may be unable to walk unaided)

The weakness usually affects both sides of your body and may get worse over a period of several days.

In mild cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, your muscles may only be slightly weakened. However, in more severe cases, the muscle weakness can progress to:

Some people with Guillain-Barré syndrome do not experience any pain, while others have severe pain in their spine, arms and legs.

When to seek immediate medical assistance

See your GP if you notice any of the above symptoms. However, seek immediate medical assistance if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • lightheadedness when you stand
  • fainting
Medical Review: October 07, 2012
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