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Because no one knows what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, there is no way to prevent it.


Most patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome are hospitalized, because the disorder can weaken the chest muscles to such an extent that breathing becomes difficult or impossible. In a hospital, patients can be monitored and put on a respirator, if necessary. If Guillain-Barré syndrome causes paralysis of the leg or arm muscles, the affected person will need help with activities of daily living such as eating and eliminating wastes. Close monitoring of cardiac function and blood pressure and other supportive care (including psychological support, pain control, skin care, prevention of blood clots, and physical therapy) are also important.

Two treatments have been shown to reduce the severity of Guillain-Barré syndrome and speed recovery:

  • Plasmapheresis (or plasma exchange) is a process in which blood is removed from the patient, and then separated into plasma (the liquid portion of blood) and blood cells. The blood cells then are put back into the body. The body manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. No one knows why this treatment works, but most scientists believe that plasmapheresis removes substances that contribute to the immune system's attack on the peripheral nerves.

  • Infusions of immunoglobulin, a mix of antibodies that are produced naturally by the body's immune system. High doses of immunoglobulin may work by blocking the antibodies that may have contributed to the disorder.

These two types of treatments are considered equally effective; the choice of treatment is usually determined by factors such as treatment availability and patient preference. IVIG is often chosen due to its ease of administration. Other treatments for Guillain-Barré syndrome are under investigation.

After recovery has begun, patients likely will need physical therapy to help them regain strength and proper movement.

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