Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder which damages the coverings of the peripheral nerves and causes muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.
The cause is unknown but is far more common in adults than children. It may be related to respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, but is not contagious.
Symptoms include differing amounts of weakness or tingling in the legs, moving then to the arms and upper body. When symptoms are severe, total paralysis may result.
Current treatment methods include plasma exchange (also called plasmapheresis) and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy. Both of these are effective, but the latter is easier to administer. Most patients recover completely, though some have residual weakness.