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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Guillain-Barré Syndrome

(Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy; Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy; Acute Idiopathic Polyneuritis; Acute Inflammatory Polyneuropathy; Acute Autoimmune Neuropathy; Idiopathic Polyneuritis; AIDP)


Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare problem that causes the immune system to attack the nerves. This results in muscle weakness. It can range from mild to severe. Most people will get better.

Nervous System.

CNS and PNShttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=72957295si2012.jpgsi2012.jpgNULLjpgsi2012.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si2012.jpgNULL15NULL2008-11-072543907295_22825Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The exact cause is not known. In some people, it is triggered by a recent infection.

Risk Factors

Guillain-Barré syndrome is more common in men. The risk gets higher with age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Recent infection
  • Stress related disorder
  • Recent vaccination (rare)


Problems may happen over hours, days, or weeks. They get worse over time. Problems may be:

  • Weakness and tingling in the legs, arms, and face
  • Pain in the legs or back
  • Problems walking or climbing stairs
  • Problems breathing
  • Eyesight problems
  • Problems swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Problems passing urine (pee)


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to diagnose Guillain-Barre syndrome. These tests may be done to support it:


The goal is to manage symptoms and help speed healing. Hospital care will be needed to watch for things like breathing and heart problems. Most people get better, but others may have lasting problems.

Treatment options are:


There are no current guidelines to prevent this problem. However, flu vaccines may not be advised for:

  • People who had Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 months of a flu vaccine, AND
  • Who are not at high risk for severe problems from the flu

This may help reduce their risk.

IV Immunoglobulin Therapy (IVIG)

Immunoglobulins are proteins in the blood that fight infections. IVIG uses an IV to give a person proteins donated from a healthy person.





  • Donofrio PD. Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2017 Oct;23(5, Peripheral Nerve and Motor Neuron Disorders):1295-1309.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/campylobacter/guillain-barre.html.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/guillain-barre-syndrome.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome. National Institute of Neurologica Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/guillain-barre-syndrome.


  • Mark S. Itzkowitz, MD, JD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.