Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a condition that affects polio
The exact cause is unknown. It is not due to renewed progression of the original polio infection. However, long-term damage to nerve and muscle cells caused by the polio may contribute to the development of PPS.
These factors increase your chance of developing PPS. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
- Previous polio attack—the only absolute risk factor
- Severity of original polio attack
- Age at onset (worse for those who get polio later in life)
Symptoms may include:
- Slowly progressive muscle weakness
- Muscular atrophy
- Muscle spasms
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty swallowing, breathing, or sleeping
- Intolerance to heat or cold
- Speech problems
- Skeletal deformities, such as scoliosis
If the symptoms during the first attack of polio were severe, the symptoms of PPS may also be severe.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. She will also do a neuromuscular exam. PPS may be hard to diagnose because symptoms come and go. They also overlap with other diseases.
Testing often involves electromyography. This measures electrical activity in affected muscles. Other, less common tests may include:
Treatment focuses on managing symptoms. The goals are to:
- Prevent overuse of weak muscles
- Prevent disuse atrophy and weakness
- Protect joints left vulnerable from weak muscles
- Maximize function
- Minimize discomfort
Treatment may include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Assistive devices
- Weight loss, if overweight
- Medication to relieve muscle spasms and pain
- Occasionally, surgery to correct deformities that interfere with function
- Immunoglobulin—currently being studied to treat PPS
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Dalakas M. IVIg in other autoimmune neurological disorders: current status and future prospects. Journal of Neurology. 2008;255(Suppl 3):12-16.
Howard R. Poliomyelitis and the postpolio syndrome. BMJ . 2005;330:1314-1318.
The Post-polio program. National Rehabilitation Hospital website.
Available at: http://www.nrhrehab.org/Patient+Care/Programs+and+Service+Offerings/Outpatient+Services/Service_Page.aspx?id=39 .
Post-polio syndrome. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/post-polio-syndrome/DS00494/DSECTION=symptoms . Updated March 2, 2008. Accessed February 9, 2009.
Rowland LP, ed. Merritt's Neurology . 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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