What is GBS?

Article Index

Upon return to home, the recovering Guillain-Barré patient can usually resume their prior sexual activity. Positions that minimise muscle exertion, such as lying on the back, may prevent exhaustion until pelvic and other muscle strength has improved.

For the rare patient who is wheelchair bound, architectural barriers may be overcome by using ramps to enter the home and other buildings. One floor living may be required unless an elevator is available. A visiting nurse and physical therapist may be utilised to treat the patient at home. The significantly handicapped patient is referred to their local rehabilitation centre.

The above review is only meant to provide guidelines. Each case of Guillain-Barré syndrome is different. Each case requires individual evaluation and treatment. This is usually accomplished under the direction of participating doctors, including family physician, internist, physiatrist and neurologist.


Guillain-Barré syndrome, also called acute idiopathic polyneuritis (rapid onset of inflammation of many nerves of unknown cause) is a disorder that consists of weakness and even paralysis of muscles of the legs, arms, and other parts of the body, as well as abnormal sensations. It frequently follows a viral infection. The illness can present in several ways, at times making the diagnosis difficult to establish in its early stages. Early care is often given in an intensive care unit so that potential complications can be treated quickly should they occur.

No specific treatment is yet available to predictably stop the illness' downhill course or reverse it. Corticosteroids have been tried with varying results. Plasmapheresis, or removal of the liquid portion of blood from the body, holds promise as a method to hasten recovery. In the early stages of the illness treatments are directed at preventing complications of paralysis. If breathing muscles become paralysed, a comprehensive rehabilitation program in an appropriate centre is often utilised.

As muscle strength returns, efforts are directed towards returning the patient to their former life style. Once recovered, one would not expect a subsequent attack at any later date.

Patient care involves coordinated efforts of a neurologist, general physician, GP, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, social worker, nurse and psychologist or psychiatrist. Emotional support from family and friends, and information about this rare disorder may help the patient learn to deal with this frustrating, disabling and potentially catastrophic illness. A particularly frustrating consequence of this disorder is long-term recurrences of fatigue and/or exhaustion as well as abnormal sensations or muscle aches. These problems can occur following the exertion of normal walking or working and can be alleviated or prevented by reduction of activity and rest.