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Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)

HCA provides multi-disciplinary treatment and full rehabilitation for people with Guillain-Barré syndrome

About

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare serious disorder where your body's immune system attacks your nerves. It starts in the feet, hands and limbs, and causes numbness, weakness and pain. The condition can usually be treated, but it does cause long-term problems for some people.

It occurs in all age groups, but older people are most affected.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome icon plus

    Symptoms start in the extremities - the hands and feet are first affected, then the legs.
    The first symptoms are:

    • numbness
    • pins and needles
    • muscle weakness
    • pain
    • loss of balance and co-ordination

    These symptoms may worsen over the next few days or weeks (usually peaking at four weeks). They may include:

    • difficulty walking
    • paralysis of the face, arms or legs
    • breathing difficulties
    • blurred vision
    • difficulty speaking
    • problems swallowing

    If you have these symptoms, it's a medical emergency. Ring 999 and go straight to accident and emergency (A&E).

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    A consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and help to make a diagnosis. They will also check your muscle reflexes and check for numbness in your hands, feet or limbs.
    If they think you may have Guillan-Barré syndrome, your consultant may order the following tests:

    • Electromyography (EMG). Here, needles are placed into your muscles. When nearby nerves are activated, electrical recordings show how your muscles react.
    • Lumbar puncture. fluid is taken from around the spinal cord in the lower back. The sample is checked for problems which cause similar symptoms to Guillain-Barré syndrome, such as an infection.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). This is where donated blood containing healthy antibodies is injected into a vein. The healthy antibodies stop the harmful antibodies being produced by your immune system from damaging your nerves. It's given once a day for around five days.
    • Plasma exchange. Blood is removed from your body via a machine. This filters out harmful antibodies and returns the blood to your body.

    A full recovery programme in neuro rehab may be needed to treat long-term problems. This may include speech and language therapy, occupational health therapy, and physiotherapy.

Consultant in theatres

Our consultants

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

  • Wellington-south-hero-facility-582-582

    The Wellington Hospital

    Wellington Place

    London NW8 9LE

    Appointments 0207 483 5148
    Enquiries 020 3131 7478

  • London Bridge Hospital Facility

    London Bridge Hospital

    27 Tooley Street

    London

    SE1 2PR

    Appointments and Enquiries 020 7234 2009
    Imaging Appointments 020 7234 2773
    Switchboard 020 7407 3100

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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