Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)


Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which a person's own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS can cause symptoms that last for a few weeks or several months. Most people recover fully from GBS, but some people have permanent nerve damage. In rare cases, people have died of GBS, usually from difficulty with breathing. In the United States, approximately 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS each year.

Stimulation of the body's immune system may play a role in the development of GBS. Approximately two-thirds of people who develop GBS symptoms do so several days or weeks after they have been sick with a diarrheal or respiratory illness. Infection with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common risk factors for GBS. People can also develop GBS after having influenza or other infections (such as cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus). On very rare occasions, they may develop GBS in the days or weeks following receiving a vaccination.

Anyone can develop GBS, but it is more common among adults than children. The incidence of GBS increases with age, and people over age 50 are at greatest risk for developing GBS.

Other Resources

General Questions and Answers on Guillain-Barré Syndrome (CDC)

Guillain-Barré Syndrome Fact Sheet (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)