Tingling, weakness, and numbness in your arms and upper body
Severe pain in your shoulders, back, and legs
Trouble with eye movement, speaking, or swallowing
Trouble controlling your bowel or bladder
Over time, the weakness may get so bad that you cannot breathe on your own or move at all.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:
Lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, which uses a needle to get a sample of fluid from the area around your spinal cord.
Nerve conduction studies, which use small wires that are taped to your skin to send mild electric signals and check how well your nerves work to carry signals to your muscles. It may be done before an EMG test.
An EMG (electromyogram), which uses needles passed through your skin to send mild electric signals and check how your nerves and muscles respond. This test looks for damage to muscles, nerves and the pathways between them.
Immunoglobulin therapy: Shots of immunoglobulin can stop your body from making antibodies that attack your immune system.
Plasma exchange: This is a process to remove blood and separate red and white blood cells from the liquid part of your blood (plasma). Plasma contains the chemicals that are attacking your nerves. The blood cells are given back to you without the plasma. Your body then quickly makes new plasma.
Physical therapy. Physical therapy helps you use and strengthen your muscles as you recover. These types of therapy can make it easier for you to take care of yourself. You may learn how to use devices such as walkers or wheelchairs to help you get places or stay in certain positions. Braces can also help by supporting joints when your muscles are not very strong.
You will need to stay in the hospital, and you may need a machine to help you breathe, until your symptoms get better. You may need treatments to prevent problems such as pneumonia and blood clots.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Get support. Talk with family and friends. Join a support group in your area.
Ask your healthcare provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Brain Resources and Information Network (BRAIN) 800-352-9424
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-08 Last reviewed: 2014-10-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.