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You’d never expect your body’s immune system to turn on you — and attack your nerves.

But that’s what happens when you have a rare, neurological condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Instead of going after things like bacteria, viruses or fungi, your body gets confused. It starts fighting itself and damages the nerves that control how your arm and leg muscles move and how they feel sensations. And it can progress quickly. Left untreated, it can lead to more severe symptoms — like paralysis and difficulty breathing.

That’s why you’ll want to see a healthcare provider right away. Our skilled, compassionate neurology team moves quickly to confirm a diagnosis and start personalized treatment. So you can get on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Guillain-Barré Syndrome Care?

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Patient-centered care:

We know it can be unsettling to have a condition affecting the way you move. That’s why everything we do focuses on you and your needs. From a highly personalized treatment plan to understanding what you can expect along the way, you get expert, compassionate care and support. Meet our team.

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Skilled collaborative providers:

We believe team-based care leads to the best results. At Cleveland Clinic, your care team is built around your specific needs and goals. You’ll have providers from different specialties working together to make sure you get treatment that matches your specific needs.

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Demonstrated expertise:

Neuromuscular conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome often have symptoms that overlap. Or look like other conditions. That’s why it’s important to work with healthcare providers who know how to identify and treat them. Our neurological team takes all the steps necessary to make sure you get the correct diagnosis and the best treatment for your needs.

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Virtual visits:

Not feeling up to leaving the house but need to see your provider? We’ve got you covered. When you schedule a virtual visit, you’ll get the same great care from the comfort of your home. You can connect face-to-face with your providers using a computer, tablet or smartphone.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Guillain-Barré Syndrome at Cleveland Clinic

Your immune system works hard battling viruses, fungi, bacteria and allergens. But sometimes, things get scrambled, and it sees parts of your body as invaders. This is called an autoimmune condition. And Guillain-Barré syndrome is one of those.

A GBS diagnosis means your immune system has decided to attack your peripheral nerves as it would an infection. These nerves send signals to muscles in your arms, legs, feet, hands, head and face, telling them to move. They also receive signals from your skin as you feel different sensations. And they manage breathing, your heartbeat and more.

As your immune system attacks these nerves, you may feel back pain, muscle weakness and numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. You might find it hard to breathe or swallow. You may have changes in your heart rate and blood pressure. These signs can progress quickly. So, you’ll want to get checked out as soon as possible.

What to expect at your first visit

Guillain-Barré syndrome’s symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. So, our team will want to rule out these other conditions and confirm that you have GBS. When you come to your first appointment, your provider will spend time asking you questions. Your story is an important part of the discovery process.

You’ll want to be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Have you had an infection recently?
  • What kind of symptoms have you had?
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • How are your symptoms affecting your life?

Your provider will do a physical exam to check out your overall health. You’ll also have a neurological exam. And you’ll get orders for some tests.

Tests for Guillain-Barré syndrome

If we’re concerned you have GBS, we often do a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). This lets us look at the fluid that surrounds your spinal cord and brain (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF). We do this to check for signs of other conditions like GBS, such as infections. You may also have electromyography (EMG) to test how healthy your nerves and muscles are and how well they work.

The information from your health history combined with the results from your neurological exam and tests help our team find out if you have GBS or another condition.

Meet Our Guillain-Barré Syndrome Team

Comprehensive, compassionate care. That’s what we offer every day at Cleveland Clinic. And to do this, we make sure you have a care team that’s focused on your unique needs. Your team will have providers from many specialties, like:

These and other providers work side-by-side to make sure you get the best care for your needs.


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida.

Treating Guillain-Barré Syndrome at Cleveland Clinic

Guillain-Barré syndrome symptoms vary from person to person. For some people, they may last only a few weeks. For others, years. But one thing is certain — GBS usually progresses quickly once it starts. So, you’ll likely be in the hospital for immediate treatment. You may have:

Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG)

Your care team may use a treatment called intravenous immunoglobulin therapy. This treatment sends antibodies (proteins that attack foreign invaders) into your bloodstream through an IV (in a vein) needle. It can help calm your immune system and improve recovery.

Plasma exchange

Plasma exchange uses plasmapheresis to separate the liquid part of your blood (plasma) and “clean” it. We do this by filtering out the antibodies that are attacking your nerves. Then we return the cleaned plasma to your body. Plasma exchange and plasmapheresis can often stop your immune system from attacking your nerves and improve recovery.

Life After Guillain-Barré Syndrome Treatment

Chances are good you’ll recover from GBS within several months after treatment. It’s possible, though, that you may have muscle weakness, numbness, tingling or problems walking that last long after your first symptoms. A very small percentage of people need a walker or wheelchair.

If you don’t fully recover, we can help you improve your quality of life and muscle strength through physical and occupational therapy. Our therapists teach you ways to make everyday activities easier. We may also recommend counseling to help with any stress these changes may cause.

Taking the Next Step

Numbness, tingling and muscle weakness are signs something isn’t right. And if they develop over a few days or a week, they can be the first symptoms of a serious autoimmune condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome. GBS can go from minimal to severe symptoms quickly, leading to paralysis or even death. The faster you get treatment, the better the chance of a good recovery. We’re here to help you move toward the best possible results with individualized treatment and compassionate care.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s Guillain-Barré syndrome experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s Guillain-Barré syndrome experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.

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