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What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome?

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This is a commonly asked question and one that we’ve included an answer to on our FAQ page.

Here is the answer we give:

The symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome initially develop over a few hours or days and then may continue to get worse over a few days or weeks.

The first signs of GBS usually start in the hands and feet before spreading to the arms and legs. They usually affect both sides of the body at the same time and can include:

  • Pins and needles
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Balance and co-ordination problems

The severity of symptoms varies but Guillain-Barré syndrome usually peaks at around four weeks, at which point sufferers may experience:

  • Paralysis of legs, arms and/or face
  • Difficulty walking without help
  • Problems with speaking, swallowing or chewing
  • Constipation and difficulties passing urine
  • Problems with breathing
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Constant severe pain

Symptoms may persist for a few weeks or months before the patient begins to feel better.

If you begin to notice the early signs of Guillain-Barré syndrome and they persist or worsen, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. If you start to struggle to breathe or swallow, or you experience paralysis in your limbs, you should call an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E department immediately.

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