What is the classic presentation of weakness in Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)?

Updated: Jul 14, 2021
  • Author: Michael T Andary, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Milton J Klein, DO, MBA  more...
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The classic clinical picture of weakness is ascending and symmetrical in nature. The lower limbs are usually involved before the upper limbs. Proximal muscles may be involved earlier than the more distal ones. Trunk, bulbar, and respiratory muscles can be affected as well.

Patients may be unable to stand or walk despite reasonable strength, especially when ophthalmoparesis or impaired proprioception is present. Respiratory muscle weakness with shortness of breath may be present.

Weakness develops acutely and progresses over days to weeks. Severity may range from mild weakness to complete tetraplegia with ventilatory failure.

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