Had a recent cold or flu – or vaccination? Rapid onset of muscle weakness in the legs might be GBS – read more below.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system. This nervous system is located outside the brain and spinal column.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (gee-YAH-buh-RAY)

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Guillain-Barr%C3%A9-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet. The first symptoms people (men and women equally) notice are weakness or tingling in the extremities. These feelings can spread quickly to other parts of the body – and in rare cases, the whole body becomes paralyzed. However, people eventually recover, and the weakness may be with them for weeks or months to come. It is not contagious.

The symptoms occur days or weeks after a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. In the past several days, news headlines tell us that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is causing this rare neurological disorder. (https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-july-12-statement-on-covid-19-vaccine)  Johnson & Johnson’s website stated that cases of GBS have occurred within 42 days of the single-dose vaccination and has updated their Factsheet to account for signs and symptoms of GBS.

The term rare is used in two contexts – the disease, GBS, is rare (one in 100,000 people – 0.001%). And the number of cases recorded is rare compared to the total number of vaccinations (100 in 12,800,000 doses – 0.00078%).

Symptoms of GBS

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/guillain-barre-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20362793. Muscle weakness includes difficulty with eye muscles (double vision and inability to move the eyes) along with difficulty swallowing, speaking, and chewing. Coordination problems, unsteadiness, inability to climb stairs are common. Pinpricks on the hands and feet are also symptoms.

People with GBS may also experience heart rate and blood pressure (high or low) issues. Digestive and bladder control are known to be symptoms also. The intensity starts low and builds up over hours, days, or weeks until some muscles are not functional – almost paralyzed. GBS can be life-threatening when it interferes with breathing, blood pressure, or heart rate.

GBS Diagnosis

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15838-guillain-barre-syndrome Many diseases have similar symptoms to GBS and may delay proper testing. The onset rapidity is notable, as is the increasing intensity over time. Reflex functions in legs (knee jerks) and arms are absent.

A nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) measures the nerve’s signaling ability. Cerebrospinal fluid changes in the spinal cord and brains of people with GBS. A spinal tap or lumbar puncture may be performed for confirmation.

Doctors look for recent onset and symmetric weakness across the body, usually starting in the legs. Pain sensations in the extremities are seen before weakness in those areas. Reflex actions are always tested, looking for diminished capacity or inability. A recent viral infection or other diseases with diarrhea symptoms is of great interest in the diagnosis.

GBS Treatment

https://www.webmd.com/brain/what-is-guillain-barre. No cure has been found for GBS. Some therapies work; however, the condition of the patient determines what can be done. If paralyzed, pneumonia and bedsores are of primary concern, and patients are usually admitted to hospital ICUs.

The two most common treatments for GBS are plasma exchange (PE) and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy (IVIg) to interrupt immune-related nerve damage. Each is effective when GBS is caught early. However, both together show no positive outcome better than PE or IVIg alone.

When the severity of GBS threatens respiratory function, a ventilator may have to be used. As GBS patients improve, hospital care is usually replaced with rehabilitative care if needed. Physical and occupational therapy can help with loss of strength, muscle control, and coordination. As a result, most (70%) GBS patients return to their pre-illness standard of life.


Interestingly, GBS is being seen in headlines in conjunction with the J&J vaccine. The actual number of GBS cases reported is less than what is expected without a vaccine. Maybe the reported numbers are wrong. Maybe there are reports of GBS that have not yet been confirmed.

Regardless, GBS is typically seen after a viral or bacterial infection. Vaccines cause viral-like symptoms for a couple of days. Is there a connection? Maybe, but I do not think so. Could any bacterial or viral infection affect the immune system to create an autoimmune response? I believe that is more likely.

We would not be monitoring millions of people for vaccine side effects if the pandemic were not present. Maybe the J&J vaccine’s ‘rare’ side effects are everyday life, and we see what we want to see. I do not know. Time will tell.

What can you do about it? Know the symptoms and contact your doctor immediately. This is especially critical if you had a J&J vaccine within the past month or so – or – if you had a recent bacterial or viral respiratory infection. The earlier this syndrome is diagnosed and treated, the better it is to return to a healthy life.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com



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