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Post-Polio Syndrome - Topic Overview

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.

You may need to have more tests or exams if your symptoms change.

How is it treated?

Post-polio syndrome is a condition that you may have for the rest of your life. The goal of treatment is to help you control symptoms and learn ways to stay active in spite of your muscle weakness. Here are some things you can do to stay active and feel better:

  • Get enough exercise, and get enough rest. Finding this balance is the most important part of your treatment. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to plan an exercise program that will help strengthen your muscles without making your pain and fatigue worse. Try to adjust your daily schedule so that your routine is less tiring, and make time for rest periods or naps. Ask others for help.
  • Use ice, heat, and physical therapies like massage. These can help relieve pain.
  • Try medicines for pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. Talk with your doctor about what medicines can help.
  • Try to stay at a healthy weight. This can help reduce stress on your joints. Eat healthy foods, and stay as active as you can.
  • Use assistive devices to make activities easier. An occupational therapist can help you find what devices might be most helpful, such as a cane, different types of braces or splints, or a powered chair.

If your condition gets worse, your treatment needs may increase. Be sure to see your doctor whenever new symptoms occur or your symptoms get worse.

Depression is common in people who have post-polio syndrome, as with many long-term illnesses. But it may be hard to recognize, because symptoms of fatigue, low energy, and sleep problems can occur with both conditions. If you think you may be depressed, talk to your doctor. Treatment can often greatly improve symptoms of depression.

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