Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare, serious neurological disorder. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects your hands and feet and can lead to weakness and paralysis that may last for months and years.
Weakness and tingling in your hands and feet are usually the first symptoms. These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralysing your whole body. At its worst, the person will need to be hospitalized to receive treatment.
The exact cause of the syndrome is unknown, but two-thirds of patients report symptoms after 6 weeks of any infection. This infection includes Covid:19, respiratory or gastrointestinal infection, or even Zika virus.
One theory that doctors have is that viral and bacterial infections change how the immune system reacts to the peripheral nerves.
It often begins with tingling and weakness starting in your feet and legs that spreads to your upper body and arms. Some people have reported noticing the first symptoms to be in the arms and face. As it progresses, muscle weakness can turn into paralysis. Some signs and symptoms are as follows:
Pins and needles in fingers, toes, ankles or wrists
Weakness in the legs slowly spreading to the upper body
Unsteady or inability to walk
Difficulty with facial movements
Severe pain that worsens at night
Difficulty with bladder control
Rapid heart rate
The nerve damage in GBS worsens over time. At week four the weakness is at its worst and the duration of symptoms can range from days to weeks to months. Overall, only 1 in 20 cases of GBS is fatal usually due to cardiovascular problems, breathing difficulty, or an infection. However, most people make a full recovery.
While there are no treatments for Guillain-Barre syndrome, several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness. Although most people recover completely, some cases turn out to be severe. Recovery can take up to several years, but most people are able to walk again after six months. Some people may have to go through lasting effects such as weakness, numbness or fatigue.