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Post-Polio Syndrome

Occurs many years after polio infection

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Updated April 22, 2009

Children with polio

Children affected by polio work with a physical therapist

Photo Courtesy of the CDC
Post-polio syndrome is a condition that may affect people who have had paralytic polio (caused by infection with poliomyelitis virus). Post-polio syndrome usually affects polio survivors 15 years or more after having had polio. Having post-polio syndrome does not mean that the individual has a new polio infection or is contagious to others. It is not known what causes post-polio syndrome.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Post-polio syndrome is:
  • gradual onset of progressive and persistent new muscle weakness or decreased endurance
  • symptoms persist for at least a year
  • no other cause of the symptoms can be found
It may include other symptoms such as:
  • fatigue
  • muscle wasting
  • muscle and joint pain
  • problems with breathing
  • problems with swallowing
Sometimes post-polio syndrome may come on suddenly after injury, surgery, or a period of inactivity.

Some people may only experience mild symptoms, especially if they only had a mild case of polio years ago. People who had a more severe case of polio and a longer recovery may develop a more severe case of post-polio syndrome. A neuromuscular examination from a specialist in post-polio syndrome can confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

There are no specific drugs or other treatments for post-polio syndrome. Some types of exercises may be helpful. Lifestyle changes, including reducing activities, and avoiding those that cause pain or fatigue that lasts more than 10 minutes, are also helpful. An individualized plan for managing post-polio syndrome symptoms can be developed by healthcare professionals and the affected individual to help maintain health and reduce the effects of the symptoms.

Sources:

"Post-Polio Syndrome Fact Sheet." Disorders A - Z. 09 Apr 2008. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 15 Apr 2009.

"For Health Professionals." Information about the Late Effects of Polio. Post-Polio Health International. 15 Apr 2009.

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