What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves in the peripheral nervous system, disrupting communication between the brain, spinal cord and the body. This attack causes inflammation and damage to the nerves, leading to various symptoms.
What are some common symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome?
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling and numbness
- Difficulty with coordination
- Loss of reflexes
What are the phases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)?
People living with GBS typically move between three main phases:
During this phase, your symptoms will appear, such as weakness or tingling sensations in your legs or arms. These symptoms can progress rapidly or develop gradually over several days or weeks.
During the plateau phase, your symptoms will stabilise and reach their peak intensity. During this phase, you may find it hard to perform daily activities. The plateau phase can last for a few days to a few weeks.
The recovery phase is a gradual process where you'll start to see improvement in your symptoms. This phase can take weeks, months, or even years, depending on your individual situation.
We will conduct a thorough evaluation to ensure an accurate diagnosis. If Guillain-Barre syndrome is suspected, your doctor may arrange the following assessments to confirm the diagnosis:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Lumbar puncture
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Medical imaging such as MRI may be used to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
Treatment and management
Your Epworth care team will collaborate with you to plan the best approach to your treatment and symptom management.
While an immediate cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is not currently available, there are various treatment options that can effectively manage your symptoms throughout each phase of GBS. These treatments aim to enhance your overall wellbeing and provide support as you progress towards the recovery phase.
Your Epworth neurologist may suggest the following to help manage and reduce the impact of your symptoms:
Coordination and care
Your Epworth neurologist may arrange referrals to other specialists such as occupational therapists, psychologists or physiotherapists to address associated challenges.
To help avoid triggers that exacerbate tremors, your health care team may suggest increasing a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, sufficient rest and stress reduction techniques.
Your neurologist may prescribe medication to manage pain, prevent blood clots or address other associated symptoms.
Plasma exchange (also known as plasmapheresis) involves removing a portion of your blood, separating the plasma (the liquid part of the blood containing harmful antibodies) and replacing it with healthy donor plasma.
Once the acute phase of GBS subsides, rehabilitation plays a crucial role in helping you to regain strength, coordination and independence. Neurological rehabilitation aims to maximise your physical and cognitive independence, while also providing emotional and psychological support for you and your family as you navigate your neurological disorder.
Your Epworth care team will arrange follow-up appointments to assess treatment effectiveness and adjust treatment plans as needed.
For Guillain-Barre syndrome
Your care team at Epworth
The multidisciplinary team for Guillain-Barre syndrome includes a specialist neurologist and allied health professionals, such as an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and physiotherapist.
Learn more about the health professionals in the neurology care team.