A rare condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) causes your body’s immune system to attack your nerves. Typically, your hands and feet will feel weak and tingly first.
These symptoms can spread rapidly and ultimately paralyze your entire body. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency in its most severe form. The majority of patients with the illness require hospitalization for treatment.
There is no known etiology for Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, in the six weeks prior, two-thirds of patients report having infection-related symptoms. A COVID-19 infection, a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection, or the Zika virus are a few of these. GBS is neither contagious nor hereditary. GBS symptoms can differ significantly from person to person and can continue for weeks to years.
Guillain-Barre syndrome has no known cure, but a number of therapies can lessen symptoms and shorten the illness’s course. Guillain-Barre syndrome usually results in full recovery, however some extreme instances might be deadly. Even though recovery could take years, most people can walk again six months after their symptoms first appeared. It may leave some patients with long-lasting side symptoms like numbness, weakness, or weariness.
There may be tingling and weakness in your feet and legs before it spreads to your upper torso and arms in the early stages of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Some people first notice symptoms in their faces or arms. Muscle weakness can proceed to paralysis in Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Guillain-Barre syndrome signs and symptoms can include:
- Experiencing pins and needles sensation in your fingers, toes, ankles, or wrists
- Weakness in the legs that progressively affects the upper body
- Unstable gait, inability to climb stairs, or both
- Difficulty speaking, chewing, or swallowing; difficulty with facial movements
- Eye movement problems or double vision
- Problems with bowel or bladder function
- Agonizing pain that may be shooting, aching, cramping, or both, and that is worse at night
- Fast heart rate
- Increased or decreased blood pressure
- Breathing problem
Within two weeks of the onset of symptoms, people with Guillain-Barre syndrome typically experience their most notable weakness.
The principal types of Guillain-Barre syndrome are:
- Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), the kind that is most typical in Europe and North America. Muscle weakness that begins in the lower body and progresses upward is the most typical indication of AIDP.
- Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS), begins with eye paralysis. Another symptom associated with MFS is an unsteady gait. MFS is more prevalent in Asia than it is in the United States.
- Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) and acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) are less frequent in the US. However, China, Japan, and Mexico have higher rates of AMAN and AMSAN.
If you experience slight tingling in your fingers or toes that doesn’t seem to be spreading or growing worse, contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. If you have any of these serious symptoms, call for emergency assistance right away:
- A tingling sensation that began in your feet or toes and is now spreading up your body.
- Rapidly escalating tingling or weakness
- Shortness of breath or trouble catching your breath when lying down.
- Aspiration of saliva
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious condition that requires immediate hospitalization because it can worsen rapidly. The sooner appropriate treatment is started, the better the chance of a good outcome.
It is unknown what causes Guillain-Barre syndrome specifically. Typically, the disorder develops days or weeks after a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection. Guillain-Barre syndrome can sporadically be brought on by recent surgery or vaccination. There have been cases that have been documented after contracting the Zika virus. After contracting the COVID-19 virus, Guillain-Barre syndrome could develop. Additionally, it is an uncommon side effect in people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca.
When you have Guillain-Barre syndrome, your immune system, which ordinarily solely targets foreign invaders, starts targeting your nerves. Myelin sheath, the neurons’ protective covering, is harmed in AIDP. Because of the injury, your nerves are unable to communicate with your brain, which can result in weakness, numbness, or paralysis.
All age groups are susceptible to Guillain-Barre syndrome, although as you become older, your risk increases. Additionally, it affects men a little more frequently than women.
Possible causes of Guillain-Barre syndrome include:
- The most frequent cause is campylobacter infection, which is most frequently linked to undercooked poultry.
- Zika virus
- Influenza virus
- COVID-19 virus
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Hepatitis A, B, C and E
- Mycoplasma pneumonia
- COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccine
- Infrequently, immunizations against influenza or for children
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma