How is Guillain-Barré Syndrome Diagnosed?
Guillain-Barré syndrome can be difficult to diagnose since its symptoms closely resemble those of other neurological disorders. If your doctors suspect you may have Guillain-Barré syndrome, they will examine your medical history, speak with you about any symptoms you are experiencing and perform a physical and neurological exam.
After that, they may order one or more tests to confirm a GBS diagnosis, including:
- Spinal tap. This procedure allows your doctor to test your cerebrospinal fluid for higher protein amounts and other signs commonly affecting people with GBS.
- Electrodiagnostic tests. Tests such as electromyography (EMG) are used to evaluate nerve and muscle function to diagnose GBS.
- Nerve conduction studies. A small shock is passed through the nerves through electrodes to measure the speed of nerve signals.
How is Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treated?
There is no cure for GBS, but prompt treatment can be lifesaving and reduce the severity of long-term disability. Studies are underway to expand our understanding of the development of Guillain-Barré syndrome and to enhance treatment.
The most common first-line treatments for GBS include:
- Immunoglobin therapy. Concentrated antibodies from healthy blood donors are given intravenously to counteract the inflammatory damage to the nerves.
- Plasma exchange (PE). During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into your veins to remove some blood. This treatment filters your plasma, the light-yellow liquid portion of the blood containing antibodies, and returns the blood to your body. Plasmapheresis removes some of the antibodies that damage the nerves and quickly improve symptoms of GBS.
NewYork-Presbyterian therapists evaluate muscle strength and motor skills, develop an individualized exercise and rehabilitation program for each patient, recommend equipment for the patient’s home to ensure safety and mobility, and discuss ways to modify activities, conserve energy, and simplify work.
Most patients eventually recover from even the most severe cases, though some continue to have weakness. Patients usually begin rehabilitation while still in the hospital and may continue working with rehabilitation specialists for some time, depending on the extent and duration of their weakness.
GBS is rare—there are fewer than 20,000 cases in the United States every year.
Most patients fully recover from GBS within several weeks. However, some people may experience more severe symptoms that last months or even years. Residual numbness or tingling can occur following the main episode of GBS, and there is a risk of permanent nerve damage, especially in those whose disease went untreated for a long time.
Maintaining a healthy diet can aid in your recovery from GBS. Avoid processed and high-sugar foods, instead choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatment
The neurological care team at NewYork-Presbyterian has a thorough understanding of the symptoms and signs of Guillain-Barré syndrome and a robust approach to its treatment. With years of experience choosing the right approach to each individual’s case, our doctors can ensure you received customized and compassionate care throughout your recovery.