Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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

  • Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis). The liquid portion of part of your blood (plasma) is removed and separated from your blood cells. The blood cells are then put back into your body, which manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. Plasmapheresis may work by ridding plasma of certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system's attack on the peripheral nerves.
  • Immunoglobulin therapy. Immunoglobulin containing healthy antibodies from blood donors is given through a vein (intravenously). High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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

You also are likely to be given medication to:

  • Relieve pain, which can be severe
  • Prevent blood clots, which can develop while you're immobile

People with Guillain-Barre syndrome need physical help and therapy before and during recovery. Your care may include:

  • Movement of your arms and legs by caregivers before recovery, to help keep your muscles flexible and strong
  • Physical therapy during recovery to help you regain strength and proper movement
  • Training with adaptive devices, such as a wheelchair or braces, to give you mobility and self-care skills
  • Exercise therapy, to cope with fatigue

Recovery

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

  • After the first signs and 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

Among adults recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome:

  • About 80 percent can walk independently six months after diagnosis
  • About 60 percent fully recover motor strength one year after diagnosis
  • About 5 to 10 percent have very delayed and incomplete recovery

Children, who rarely develop Guillain-Barre syndrome, generally recover more completely than adults.

Jun. 03, 2014

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