What is post-polio syndrome?
syndrome is an illness of the
nervous system that can appear 15 to 50 years after you
polio. It affects your muscles and nerves, and it
causes you to have weakness, fatigue, and muscle or joint pain.
Although post-polio syndrome can make some day-to-day activities more difficult, treatment can help control symptoms and help you stay active. Your symptoms may not get worse for many years. Post-polio syndrome usually progresses very slowly.
Only people who
have had polio can get post-polio syndrome. But having post-polio syndrome
doesn't mean that you have polio again. Unlike polio, post-polio syndrome doesn't spread from person to person.
What causes post-polio syndrome?
Post-polio syndrome most likely
arises from the damage left over from having polio.
virus harms the nerves that control muscles, and it makes the muscles weak. If
you had polio, you may have gained back the use of your muscles. But the nerves
that connect to the muscles could be damaged without your knowing it. The
nerves may break down over time and cause you to have weak muscles
Researchers are studying other possible causes of
post-polio syndrome. One theory is that the
immune system plays a role.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of post-polio
syndrome tend to show up very slowly. The main symptoms are:
- New muscle weakness. This is most common in the muscles that had nerve
damage from polio.
You may also have weakness in muscles that you didn't realize had been affected by
polio. Overuse or underuse of the muscles can lead to weakness.
- Fatigue. You may find that the activities you used to do without getting tired are now causing fatigue. You may often feel tired, have a heavy feeling in your muscles, or feel sleepy. At times you may have trouble thinking clearly.
- Muscle or joint pain. Muscles affected by polio tend to be weaker than normal. To make up for this weakness, other muscles have to work harder. This puts extra wear and tear on muscles, joints, and tendons, sometimes leading to aches, cramping, and pain.
Depending on which muscles are affected, this trio of muscle weakness, fatigue, and pain can make daily activities more difficult. For example, people with shoulder or arm weakness may have trouble getting dressed. People who have weakness in their legs may have trouble walking or climbing stairs.
Some people with post-polio syndrome
also have problems with swallowing, sleeping, and tolerating cold
temperatures. Or they may need help to improve their breathing.
How is post-polio syndrome diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose post-polio syndrome based on your symptoms, medical history, and lab tests. Your doctor will look at how polio affected you and how well you healed from
it. Lab tests will be done to check for other causes of your symptoms. If your symptoms and history point to post-polio syndrome, and if tests cannot find another cause, then your doctor may diagnose post-polio syndrome.