Guillain-Barre syndrome is caused by the immune system attacking the body's own nervous system, and it is generally triggered by an infection of the lungs or digestive system, explains Mayo Clinic. The exact mechanisms and cause of the immune system malfunctioning in this way are unknown.
Guillain-Barre syndrome varies in severity, and in more extreme cases, can require urgent medical care, Mayo Clinic states. The first symptoms are usually tingling and weakness in the extremities. Weakness tends to begin in the legs and spread up into the rest of the body, and it can render walking difficult and managing stairs impossible. Facial and eye movements can be more difficult, as can eating, speaking or even breathing. In the most severe cases, the syndrome can cause paralysis throughout the body. The worst symptoms generally take between two and four weeks to develop and then resolve after another two to four weeks.
Treatments include pain relief medication and medication to reduce blood clots, which can be a problem in the case of extended immobility, says Mayo Clinic. While there is no cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome, symptoms can be minimized by either immunoglobulin therapy or plasma exchange. Physical therapy and related care are often required during recovery from the syndrome.