Guillain-Barr syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because several other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

Your GP will refer you to a hospital specialist if they think you might have it or they aren't sure what's causing your symptoms.

Some of the main checks and tests you may need are outlined below.


Your GP or specialist may:

  • ask about your symptoms, such as how long they've lasted and whether they're getting worsemuscle weakness that's getting worse over time is a common sign ofGuillain-Barr syndrome
  • examine your hands, feet or limbs to check forsymptomssuch as numbness
  • ask if you've recently been ill Guillain-Barr syndrome often follows an infection such as Food poisoning or flu
  • check your reflexes, such aswhether your legtwitches whenyour knee is tappedina particular place people withGuillain-Barr syndrome usually have no or reduced reflexes

Nerve tests

In hospital, two tests may be carried out to see how well your nerves are working.

These are:

  • electromyography (EMG) tiny needles are inserted into your muscles and electrical recordings are taken to see how they react whennearby nerves are activated
  • nerve conduction studies small discs (electrodes)are stuck on your skin andminor electric shocks are used to activate the nerves and measure how quickly these signals travel along them

In people withGuillain-Barr syndrome, these tests will usually show that signals aren't travelling along the nerves properly.

Lumbar puncture

A lumbar puncture is a procedure to remove some fluid from around the spinal cord (the nerves running up the spine) using a needle insertedinto the lower part of the spine.

The sample of fluid will be checked for signs of problems that can cause similar symptoms toGuillain-Barr syndrome, such as an infection.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 16 Jan 2017