Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. The body's immune response because confused and mistakes cells of the peripheral nervous system for foreign invaders. This causes the body to attack these cells, causing progressive weakness. Guillain-Barre usually appears after a viral infection, but it also can be triggered by surgery or vaccinations. It starts with mild weakness in the lower legs, which rapidly progresses to full-body paralysis and respiratory failure.
Guillain-Barre cannot be cured, but there are treatments to reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent death. Plasmapheresis is the treatment of choice because it removes the offending antibodies, lessening the severity of the disease.