Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Although some people can take months and even years to recover, most cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome follow this general timeline:

  • Following the first symptoms, the condition tends to progressively worsen for about two weeks.
  • Symptoms reach a plateau within four weeks.
  • Recovery begins, usually lasting six to 12 months, though for some people it could take as long as three years.

There's no cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome. But two types of treatments may speed recovery and reduce the severity of Guillain-Barre syndrome:

  • Plasmapheresis. This treatment — also known as plasma exchange — is a type of "blood cleansing." Plasmapheresis consists of removing the liquid portion of your blood (plasma) and separating it from the actual blood cells. The blood cells are then put back into your body, which manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. It's not clear why this treatment works, but scientists believe that plasmapheresis rids plasma of certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system attack on the peripheral nerves.
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin. Immunoglobulin contains healthy antibodies from blood donors. High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

These treatments are equally effective. Mixing the treatments or administering one after the other is no more effective than using either method alone.

Often, before recovery begins, caregivers may need to manually move your arms and legs to help keep your muscles flexible and strong. After recovery has begun, you'll likely need physical therapy to help regain strength and proper movement so that you'll be able to function on your own. You may need training with adaptive devices, such as a wheelchair or braces, to give you mobility and self-care skills.

May. 28, 2011