Post-polio syndrome

Post-polio syndrome refers to a cluster of potentially disabling signs and symptoms that appear decades — an average of 30 to 40 years — after the initial polio illness.

Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in America, responsible for paralysis and death. Shortly after polio reached its peak in the early 1950s, the inactivated polio vaccine was introduced and greatly reduced polio's spread.

Today, few people in developed countries get paralytic polio, thanks to the polio vaccine. According to some studies, however, up to almost half the people who had polio at a young age may experience certain effects of the disease many years later — post-polio syndrome.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Common signs and symptoms of post-polio syndrome include:

  • Progressive muscle and joint weakness and pain
  • General fatigue and exhaustion with minimal activity
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Breathing or swallowing problems
  • Sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • Decreased tolerance of cold temperatures

In most people, post-polio syndrome tends to progress slowly, with new signs and symptoms followed by periods of stability.

When to see a doctor

If you're experiencing weakness or fatigue that seems to be getting worse, see your doctor. It's important to rule out other causes of your signs and symptoms that may require different therapy from what's currently advised for post-polio syndrome.

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