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Guillain-Barré syndrome

Find out about the main treatments for Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Treatment for Guillain-Barré syndrome can help reduce the symptoms and speed up recovery.

Most people are treated in hospital and usually need to stay in hospital for a few weeks to a few months.

The main treatments are outlined below.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)

The most commonly used treatment for Guillain-Barré syndrome is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).

When you have Guillain-Barré syndrome, the immune system (the body's natural defences) produces harmful antibodies that attack the nerves.

IVIG is a treatment made from donated blood that contains healthy antibodies. These are given to help stop the harmful antibodies damaging your nerves.

IVIG is given directly into a vein. Most people need treatment once a day for around five days.

Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)

A plasma exchange, also called plasmapheresis, is sometimes used instead of IVIG.

This involves being attached to a machine that removes blood from a vein and filters out the harmful antibodies that are attacking your nerves before returning the blood to your body.

Most people need treatment every other day for a week or two.

Read more about the plasma exchange procedure.

Other treatments

While in hospital, you'll be closely monitored to check for any problems with your lungs, heart or other body functions.

You'll also be given treatment to relieve your symptoms and reduce the risk of further problems. This may include:

  • a breathing machine (ventilator) if you're having difficulty breathing
  • a feeding tube if you have swallowing problems
  • painkillers if you're in pain
  • being gently moved around on a regular basis to avoid bed sores and keep your joints healthy
  • a thin tube called a catheter in your urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) if you have difficulty peeing
  • laxatives if you have constipation
  • medication and/or special leg stockings to prevent blood clots

Once you start to improve, you may also need extra support to aid your recovery. Read more about recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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