Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Also known as: GBS, acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculopathy, AIDP.

What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?

When the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves of the body, usually following a gastrointestinal or respiratory tract infection, the group of diseases that result is known as Guillain-Barre syndrome. GBS can affect children of all ages.

What causes Guillain-Barre syndrome? 

The body’s immune system attacking the body’s nerves is the direct cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome. This often happens after a lung or digestive system infection (in ~ 66% of patients), but can also occur after surgery, trauma or as a reaction to immunization.

What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome?

The classical clinical presentation of Guillain-Barre syndrome is a sudden onset of a non-febrile illness with muscle weakness, paralysis and muscle tingling/pain, that starts from feet towards the head.

Temporary weakness/paralysis of the muscles of the toes/feet and legs, which causes difficulty walking, leading to weakness /pain in the arms, chest, which can result in breathing difficulty and the need for artificial ventilation support, and face muscles, which gradually worsens over several weeks to two months.

Other symptoms from involvement of other types of nerves can result in loss of bowel or bladder control, rapid heartbeat, and blood pressure problems, among others.

Full recovery, occurs in most children and can start within a fairly short time after onset, may take up to two years.

What are Guillain-Barre syndrome care options?

As there is specific cure for GBS, early diagnosis and close monitoring in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, with supportive care to help with breathing, pain, medications, and with measures to reduce the body’s immune and/or inflammatory responses in the child.

Physical, occupational and speech/swallowing therapy are also often being necessary to aid your child to full recovery.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 18, 2021 11:39 AM

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