Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Call your doctor if you have mild symptoms that might represent Guillain-Barre syndrome, such as a prickling sensation in your toes or fingers. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you seek immediate medical care.
Seek emergency medical help if you experience:
- Tingling or weakness that affects your feet and hands, is rapidly spreading, or is spreading upward
- Difficulty breathing
- Choking on saliva
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. It will help your doctor to have as many details as possible about when your symptoms first appeared and how they may have worsened or spread over time.
- Write down your key medical information, including any recent infectious illness or medical procedures you've had, including vaccinations and surgery. Also write down all medications you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency. Take someone who can soak up all the information your doctor provides and who can stay with you if you need immediate treatment.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Prepare a list of questions so that you can make the most of your time with your doctor. For Guillain-Barre syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Do I need to be hospitalized?
- What treatments do I need?
- How soon do you expect my symptoms will improve with treatment?
- How fully do you expect I'll recover?
- How long will recovery take?
- Am I at risk of long-term complications?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them will help your doctor quickly determine next steps in making your diagnosis and starting care. Your doctor may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- What parts of your body are affected?
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Did your symptoms come on gradually or suddenly?
- Do your symptoms seem to be spreading or getting worse?
- If your symptoms include weakness, does it affect just one or both sides of your body?
- Do your symptoms include any problems with bladder or bowel control?
- Have you had any vision problems?
- Have you had any difficulty chewing or swallowing?
- Are you having difficulty breathing?
- Have you recently had an infectious illness?
- Have you recently spent time in a forested area?
- Have you recently traveled abroad? Where?
- Have you recently had any medical procedures, including vaccinations?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
- Is anyone else you know having similar symptoms?
- Guillain-Barre syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/gbs/detail_gbs.htm?css=print. Accessed March 10, 2011.
- Ferri FF., et al. Guillain-Barre syndrome. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..C2009-0-38600-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&about=true&uniqId=230100505-53. Accessed March 18, 2011.
- Soysal A, et al. Clinico-electrophysiological findings and prognosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome — 10 years' experience. Acta neurologica Scandinavica. 2011;123:181.
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- Vriesendorp FJ. Clinical features and diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 10, 2011.
- Vriesendorp FJ. Pathogenesis of Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 10, 2011.
- Vriesendorp FJ. Treatment and prognosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 10, 2011.
- Mauermann ML (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 21, 2011.