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Post-Polio Syndrome: Polio Revisited

By HERWriter
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Post-polio syndrome (PPS) can begin to affect victims of polio up to 40 years after that first infection. This may eventually happen in up to 80 percent of all victims of polio.

The explanation for the existence of PPS is uncertain, though there are a few theories.

The original poliovirus may have been dormant for many years and been reactivated, perhaps due to an accident, illness, trauma or excessive stress.

What would cause reactivation is unknown. But it is known that polio antibodies have been discovered in PPS patients' spinal fluid.

Here's another theory. After nerve cells (neurons) were damaged or killed by the original poliovirus, healthy neurons took their places.

A neuron plus the muscle fibers it moves are called a motor unit. After the original poliovirus killed some neurons, healthy neurons generated new terminals for muscle fibers whose neurons died.

The motor units are bigger than before, since the healthy neurons are now tending more muscle fibers than they were meant to. They may simply wear out before their time. Symptoms experienced earlier by victims of polio return.

Symptoms may be repeats of the originals suffered by the victims of polio, though this isn't always the case. It's possible for PPS to damage muscles that were not previously affected by polio.

Breathing difficulties cause inadequate oxygen intake, and ventilation assistance may be necessary. Trouble swallowing because of weakness can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Skeletal abnormalities like scoliosis may occur. Exhaustion, debilitating fatigue, pain in the lower back, joint and muscle pain, muscle wasting (atrophy), progressive muscle weakness, make daily life extremely draining.

Sleep problems and temperature hypersensitivity add to the disordered experience of living with post-polio syndrome. The severity of symptoms from PPS will largely correspond to the severity suffered from polio.

Exercise is tricky. Some exercise may help but the wrong kind or too much of it can cause setbacks. It's important to respond immediately to signs of fatigue, pain or spasms. Otherwise, symptoms can be aggravated for extended periods.

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EmpowHER Guest

Hello. I am the wife of 55 years to a man who had polio in the 40's He and his brother both had it . At the time they lived in WY. My husband was about 7-8 at the time. He is 76 years old now. He worked hard all his life as a automotive parts person, farmed, and we raised 3 children. Over the last few years he has been treated for possible kidney failure , and has a fistula , not used as yet, diabetes , heart problems, including one stint. He has lots of pain and has fallen several times. Now on Doctor is telling him maybe his lungs are being compensated because of the polio. No pain medications seem to work for him. Some of the medicines he has taken have caused him to be alergy to those and now he has skin breakouts often,even if he dose not take medicine. ,, I would sure love to find a Doctor that can help him. Maybe there is one out there. Thank You. Ruth Walker

May 22, 2010 - 1:03pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

I'm sorry to hear about your husband's health problems, and that the doctors haven't been able to help him.

Have you tried a naturopath? When I became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome years ago, none of the conventional doctors, including specialists, could help me. But my naturopath has been turning my health around over the last couple of years.

It has made all the difference in the world for me. That is the only reason I am even physically and mentally able to be here writing to you.

May 22, 2010 - 2:09pm
(reply to Jody Smith)

I think it's very important to live as healthy as possible when one suffers from post-polio. One shouldn't overeat and only go for the healthiest food. Also one should see to it that one has one's sleep and try not to tire oneself out. Personally I believe that exercise is important too as it's good for the blood circulation.
Do I do all of this myself? I wish I did because I really believe in it, BUT suffering from boosts of fatigue makes it a bit too tempting to forget about them now and then ....

June 20, 2010 - 2:19pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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