Is There a Cure for Post-Polio Syndrome?

Is there a cure for post-polio syndrome?

Post-polio syndrome can be managed by lifestyle modification and other strategies.
Post-polio syndrome can be managed by lifestyle modification and other strategies.

Presently, there are no medications to cure, stop or reverse the damage caused by the post-polio syndrome. However, the symptoms of the post-polio syndrome may be managed via a multipronged approach. This involves rehabilitation and lifestyle changes for the management of this condition. Researchers have demonstrated that non-fatiguing exercises may improve muscle strength and reduce tiredness in people with post-polio syndrome. These approaches help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

The following recommendations may help in the management of post-polio syndrome

  • Seek medical advice from a physician experienced in the treatment of neuromuscular disorders.
  • Do regular non-fatiguing exercises under the supervision of an experienced health professional.
  • Use mobility aids, ventilation equipment and revise activities of daily living to avoid rapid muscle tiring and total body exhaustion.
  • Avoid activities that cause pain or fatigue that lasts for more than 10 minutes.
  • Join support groups that encourage self-help, group participation and positive action.
  • Counseling for the affected person and their family that may help individuals and families adjust to the late effects of polio.
  • Speech therapy that may be sought along with voice-strengthening exercises. This will also help to compensate for swallowing difficulties.
  • Go for sleep apnea treatment to cope with sleeping difficulties. The healthcare provider may suggest changes in sleeping patterns such as avoiding sleeping on the back or using devices that help to keep the airways open during sleep.
  • Take medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen that may be used to relieve pain

What is post-polio syndrome?

Post-polio syndrome is a medical condition that affects polio survivors in the form of newer muscle weakness at least 10 to 20 years after an attack of acute poliomyelitis infection. Poliomyelitis or polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It can occur at any age and affect a person’s nervous system. Introduction of the polio vaccine in 1955 has helped to eradicate this disease from the United States. Because of the worldwide use of the polio vaccine, polio is now endemic to only three countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan).

  • In post-polio syndrome, polio survivors begin experiencing new weakening in muscles previously affected by polio infection.
  • The syndrome most often presents as progressive muscle weakness and muscle atrophy (a gradual decrease in the size of the affected muscles).
  • There may be pain because of joint degeneration and increasing skeletal deformities such as scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine).
  • Pain and deformities may precede weakness and muscle atrophy.
  • Symptoms may range from minor symptoms to visible muscle weakness and atrophy.

Although post-polio syndrome is rarely life-threatening, the symptoms can significantly affect the affected person’s ability to function independently. Weakness of the respiratory muscles may cause trouble with proper breathing. This can hamper daytime activities and sleep. When the muscles involved in swallowing are affected, there can be aspiration or entry of food and liquids into the lungs, leading to serious complications such as pneumonia. The affected person may also report decreased tolerance to cold.

Is post-polio syndrome contagious?

Unlike polio, post-polio syndrome is not a contagious disease, which means others cannot catch it from the affected people. Post-polio syndrome can only affect a polio survivor.

Medscape Medical Reference


Harvard Health Publishing