ComplicationsBy Mayo Clinic staff
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.
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