Guillain-Barre syndrome affects your nerves and may prompt a domino-like effect on other systems in your body, such as your breathing and cardiovascular functions, among others. Complications of Guillain-Barre syndrome include:

  • Breathing difficulties. A potentially deadly complication of Guillain-Barre syndrome is that the weakness or paralysis can spread to the muscles that control your breathing. You may need temporary help from a machine to breathe when you're hospitalized for treatment.
  • Residual numbness or other sensations. Most people with Guillain-Barre syndrome recover completely or have only minor, 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.
  • Cardiovascular problems. Blood pressure fluctuations and cardiac arrhythmias are common side effects of Guillain-Barre syndrome, often requiring pulse and blood pressure monitoring.
  • Pain. Up to half of people with Guillain-Barre syndrome experience neuropathic pain, which may be relieved by nonprescription or prescription painkillers.
  • Bowel and bladder function problems. Sluggish bowel function and urine retention may result from Guillain-Barre syndrome.
  • Blood clots. 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.
  • Pressure sores. Being immobile also puts you at risk of developing pressure sores, or bedsores. Frequent repositioning may help avoid this problem.
  • Relapse. Up to 10 percent of people with Guillain-Barre syndrome experience a relapse.

Severe, early symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome significantly increase the risk of serious long-term complications. Rarely, death may occur from complications such as respiratory distress syndrome and heart attack.

May. 28, 2011