Post-Polio Syndrome - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of post-polio syndrome?

Symptoms include slowly progressive muscle weakness, unaccustomed fatigue (both generalized and muscular), and, at times, muscle atrophy. Pain from joint degeneration and increasing skeletal deformities such as scoliosis are common. Some patients experience only minor symptoms. While less common, others may develop visible muscle atrophy, or wasting.

Post-polio syndrome is rarely life-threatening. However, untreated respiratory muscle weakness can result in underventilation, and weakness in swallowing muscles can result in aspiration pneumonia.

The severity of residual weakness and disability after acute poliomyelitis tends to predict the development of post-polio syndrome. Patients who had minimal symptoms from the original illness will most likely experience only mild post-polio syndrome symptoms. People originally hit hard by the poliovirus and who attained a greater recovery may develop a more severe case of post-polio syndrome with a greater loss of muscle function and more severe fatigue. It should be noted that many polio survivors were too young to remember the severity of their original illness and that accurate memory fades over time.

According to estimates by the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 440,000 polio survivors in the United States may be at risk for post-polio syndrome. Researchers are unable to establish a firm prevalence rate, but they estimate that the condition affects 25 percent to 50 percent of these survivors, or possibly as many as 60 percent, depending on how the disorder is defined and which study is quoted.

Patients diagnosed with post-polio syndrome sometimes are concerned that they are having polio again and are contagious to others. Studies have shown that this does not happen.

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Comment from: Scitnor, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: January 06

I contracted polio when I was (I think) 5 years old. I lost ability to walk. As I remember, my right leg gave out, and, as I recall it was painful to attempt to walk. This would have been somewhere during 1957 to 1959 years, I believe. My parents (still living) don't remember my having polio, but I remember having it, yet I'm not clear on what year/s I experienced polio. I recall taking the sugar cubes and in a short time, I was able to walk. Now however, at 63, my right leg gets numb when walking and/or standing and has been steadily getting worse. Today (1-4-16), I woke up to a numb right leg, tingling as though it's asleep and am unable to put any weight on it. Yet, I can bend/operate my right foot. Odd!

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Comment from: pinecrone, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: February 25

I am 70 and had polio when I was 3. Today I have pain in my legs and back, COPD, and arthritis everywhere. I have told doctors for years that I had polio. Since I was able to walk (a little), they said I was cured! I was sent to physical therapy where the process was more painful than I could bear. At 66 I had an orthopedic doctor confirm it was post-polio. Today I need a wheel chair and can only manage to walk across a room before it is too much. I resent that there are no doctors to help us. Drugs do not work. I've had them all. Life is much better without them. They do not help the pain.

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