It is a rare illness that affects the peripheral nerves of the body. Inflammation may affect the nerves of the limbs, breathing muscles, heart, throat, bladder and eyes. Although the cause is not known, many cases occur after a viral infection.
What are the symptoms?
These may include numbness, tingling, fatigue, muscle weakness and aching, with thigh and hip muscles most commonly affected. Also, it may affect blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and vision. Later stages of the disease include weakness or paralysis of limbs, numbness or pins and needles, a vibrating and other sensations, all of which occur on both sides of the body equally. Symptoms may be severe enough that a wheelchair will be temporarily necessary.
What is the treatment?
As the disease affects important bodily functions such as mobility, temperature and breathing, most patients are hospitalised. While there is no specific treatment for the condition, the hospital can provide care and treatment of any other problems that might occur as a result of being confined to bed such as bedsores or leg swelling, and physiotherapy is available to keep joints and muscles active. Other treatment may be directed at emotional problems that may be experienced, such as frustration or depression, and also pain relief when necessary.
What is the outlook?
About 90% of patients have an almost complete recovery. The condition itself may last from a few days to a few weeks, after which improvement begins. Physiotherapy and moderate exercise helps the muscles to recover, and rehabilitation to regain normal everyday activities. Full recovery may take from six months to two years, and some patients may experience prolonged abnormal sensations such as aching muscles, tingling and weakness.