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Post-Polio Syndrome

What is post-polio syndrome?

Post-polio syndrome is a condition that appears decades after one has had polio, typically 30 to 40 years later. It is very rare, as the polio vaccine has greatly reduced the spread and prevalence of the illness.

What are the symptoms of post-polio syndrome?

Symptoms include:

  • Pain and weakness in the joints and muscles
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Fatigue with little activity
  • Low tolerance of the cold
  • Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
  • Issues with swallowing and breathing

These symptoms often progress slowly, and there are periods of stability. There are also complications, which include falls, chronic respiratory failure, osteoporosis, dehydration, malnutrition, and pneumonia. 

What causes post-polio syndrome?

No one knows exactly what causes this syndrome, but they do know that it is associated with the polio illness. Medical professionals believe that when the motor neurons are damaged, they cannot handle the stress that they once could. This results in post-polio syndrome decades later. 

They have also identified some of the risk factors, which are the severity of one’s polio, the age at which they had polio, the rate of recovery, and excessive physical activity. 

How is post-polio syndrome diagnosed?

There is no test specific to this syndrome. Doctors will perform a physical exam, ask about patient and medical history, and exclude all other conditions. To do so, they will use tests like EMGs, muscle biopsies, blood tests, and imaging tests. 

What are the treatments for post-polio syndrome?

Treatment is symptomatic. Doctors will work with patients on energy conservation, physical therapy, sleep apnea treatments, and speech therapy. Medications may be prescribed as well. Lifestyle changes, such as staying warm and protecting the lungs, may also be helpful. 

Where can I find out more about post-polio syndrome?

Post-Polio Syndrome Articles