Dear Ask The Doctor: How long does Guilain Barre Syndrome last? I was diagnosed with it in May 2011 and had a bad experience with it where I am still battling with it now with neuropathy symptoms and the inability to walk because of numbness in both legs. Will this come on bad everytime I get sick or get a stomach virus? Is there anything I can do to ease the neuropathy symptoms? I currently take Cymbalta, Oxycodone, Neurontin and Neuropathy Support Formula but with no relief. Is it because it's associated with GBS?
Dear Matthew: Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms. These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body. In its most severe form, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization. The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown, but it is often preceded by an infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or the stomach flu. There's no known cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness. Most people recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome, though some may experience lingering effects from it, such as weakness, numbness or fatigue, as in your case. Other complications of Guillain-Barre syndrome include: weakness or paralysis to the muscles that control your breathing; residual weakness or abnormal sensations, such as numbness or tingling. However, full recovery may be slow, often taking a year or longer, with between 20 and 30 percent of people having an incomplete recovery. Blood pressure fluctuations and cardiac arrhythmias are common side effects of Guillain-Barre syndrome, often requiring pulse and blood pressure monitoring. Up to half of people with Guillain-Barre syndrome experience neuropathic pain, which may be relieved by nonprescription or prescription painkillers. Sluggish bowel function and urine retention may result from Guillain-Barre syndrome. People who are immobile due to Guillain-Barre syndrome are at risk of developing blood clots. Until you're able to walk independently, taking blood thinners and wearing support stockings may be recommended. Being immobile also puts you at risk of developing pressure sores, or bedsores. And finally, Up to 10 percent of people with Guillain-Barre syndrome may experience a relapse.Severe, early symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome significantly increase the risk of serious long-term complications. The emotional impact of Guillain-Barre syndrome can be devastating. In severe cases, Guillain-Barre syndrome can transform you from healthy and independent to critically ill and physically helpless — suddenly, and without warning. Although most people eventually recover fully, a diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome means confronting the possibility of long-term disability or paralysis. And those who do develop these complications must adjust to lasting, limited mobility and dependence on others to help manage daily activities.