Guillain-Barr (pronounced ghee-yan bar-ray) syndrome is a very rare and serious condition that affects the nerves.

It mainly affects the feet, hands and limbs, causing problems such as numbness, weakness and pain.

It can be treated and most people will eventually make a full recovery, althoughit can occasionally be life-threatening and some people are left with long-term problems.

Guillain-Barr syndrome affects people of all ages, but your chances of getting it increase as you get older.

This page covers:


When to get medical help



Recovery and complications

Symptoms ofGuillain-Barr syndrome

Symptoms often start in your feet and hands before spreading to your arms and legs.

At first you may have:

  • numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • muscle weakness
  • pain
  • problems with balance and co-ordination

These symptoms may continue to get worse over the next few days or weeks before they start toslowly improve. In severe cases, you may have difficulty moving, walking, breathing and/or swallowing.

But in people withGuillain-Barr syndrome, something goes wrong and it mistakenly attacks and damagesthe nerves.

It's not clear exactly why this happens, but it can be triggered by:

  • an infection, such as food poisoning , flu or cytomegalovirus
  • a vaccination, such as the flu vaccine (but this is extremely rare and the benefits of vaccination outweighany risk)
  • surgery, a medical procedure or an injury

Overall, around 1 in 20 cases is fatal.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 16 Jan 2017