Health Q&A: Post polio syndrom

May 28, 2002|BY Christine L. Moats

Q: What is Post-polio Syndrome?

A: Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a condition that affects polio survivors anywhere from 10 to 40 years after their first paralyzing attack of polio.

People with PPS experience further weakening of muscles that were initially affected by the polio infection. Symptoms often include the following:

-- Fatigue and pain in muscles and joints

-- Slowly progressive muscle weakness and degeneration

-- Joint pain and/or skeletal deformities such as scoliosis

-- Less common are breathing and swallowing difficulties, sleep disorders and cold intolerance

Some polio survivors experience minor symptoms while others may develop spinal muscular degeneration and in rare cases, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the extent to which polio survivors will suffer from PPS depends on how seriously they were affected by the original polio attack.


People who had only minimal symptoms originally and subsequently develop PPS will most likely experience only mild PPS symptoms.

People originally hit hard by the polio virus, who were left with severe residual weakness, may develop a more severe case of PPS with a greater loss of muscle function, difficulty in swallowing, and more periods of fatigue.

Q: Can PPS be prevented?

A: Currently there is no cure for PPS. Several drugs are being studied that may provide some relief. There are some non-drug options to help manage daily symptoms such as physical therapy with careful use of exercise, occupational therapy with instruction on lifestyle changes, use of assistive devices such as canes or walkers, appropriate weight loss if needed, and use of over-the-counter pain relievers. It is important to maintain a healthy diet and see you doctor regularly.

For more information, go to these websites: and

Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

The Herald-Mail Articles