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What is Post-Polio Syndrome?

By HERWriter Guide
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EmpowHER has had several questions and comments in recent months about post-polio syndrome, especially from our international readers.

Polio is all but globally eradicated in 2012, thanks to vaccinations and huge efforts to make sure all children are protected. Only 1,352 reported cases in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.

But something called post-polio syndrome can affect those children who got polio and survived, and it's something that many people have to live with today as adults.

Let's look at what polio is, to begin with. Polio is a (mostly) childhood virus that is transmitted via the mouth, usually from fecal matter. The older the victim, the more painful the symptoms tend to be.

Polio affects the spine and can cause paralysis. It can also cause death by paralyzing the respiratory system.

Even though polio is rare in global terms now, it's still best for people to make sure they are inoculated before they travel to at-risk countries. Their doctors can advise.

For those who were not vaccinated as children and survived polio, they can go on to live with post-polio syndrome. PPS can be a very painful condition that can last throughout life.

PPS occurs in up to 40 percent of people after they have had polio and generally starts a decade or more after the initial polio attack. It's unknown exactly what causes it.

According to an EmpowHER article by Michele Badash, MS, symptoms of PPS include:

• Fatigue

• 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


There is no cure for PPS but certain changes in lifestyle and health care can help. These include maintaining a healthy weight, therapies like speech, occupational and physical, as well as walking aids and aids to assist in activities of daily living.

Massage can help with body aches. Because PPS can cause scoliosis, surgery may be considered in severe cases to realign the spine.

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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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