Conventional Medical Treatments for Guillain-Barre Syndrome
What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a neurological autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the body’s peripheral nervous system (the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord). The muscles lose the ability to respond to commands from the brain. This causes weakness or even paralysis, which is usually temporary. GBS can also interrupt sensory signals to the brain.
There is no cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), but treatments are available to reduce severity of symptoms, support recovery, and minimize complications.
Conventional medical treatments
Conventional medical treatments for GBS include the following:
- Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
In this procedure, the liquid portion of the blood, known as plasma, is separated from the blood cells. The blood cells are returned to the body and the body manufactures more plasma. Removing plasma is thought to remove the antibodies that caused GBS.
- Immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy
Immunoglobulins are antibody proteins that are naturally produced by the body’s immune system. Immunoglobulin therapy involves the intravenous administration of immunoglobulins from healthy donors to individuals with GBS. The infusion of healthy antibodies is thought to block the antibodies that are attacking the nerve cells.
- Pain medications
Pain medication may be used to treat pain, which can be severe.
- Blood-thinning medications
Because GBS often affects mobility, blood-thinning medications are typically prescribed to help prevent blood clots.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy is usually needed during recovery to rebuild strength and mobility.
- Occupational therapy
Occupational therapy (OT) may be required to help with daily activities, such as personal care and hygiene. OT can also help if assistive devices, such as a walker or cane, are needed during recovery.
Recovery from GBS takes time, typically between 6 and 12 months. In some cases, recovery can take years. However, the majority of individuals with GBS experience complete recovery.