Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a neurologic disorder that produces a group of symptoms in persons who had paralytic polio many years earlier. Because these symptoms tend to occur together, they are called a syndrome.
Typically, symptoms arise after a period of functional and neurological stability of at least 15 years after the initial episode of polio. The symptoms include:
- New weakness in the muscles previously affected by polio, as well as in muscles thought to be unaffected by the original illness
- Pain in the muscles or joints
- Decreased endurance
- Decreased function
- Muscle atrophy (shrinkage)
- Breathing difficulties
- Swallowing problems
- Cold intolerance
Some PPS symptoms (such as weakness, fatigue, and atrophy) appear to be caused by a progressive degeneration or impairment of motor units. Other symptoms (such as muscle and joint pain) are more likely the result of excessive wear and tear on different parts of the musculoskeletal system. This wear and tear can be brought on or worsen when muscles become weaker.
MedStar National Rehabilitation Network’s Post-Polio Program provides comprehensive services for people who are experiencing health problems that may be the late effects of polio.
The Post-Polio Program helps individuals to become more effective in managing polio-related health problems through comprehensive evaluation, treatment, follow-up, and education. Treatment goals include:
- Reduction of fatigue
- Reduction of pain
- Modification of daily energy expenditure
- Development of a therapeutic exercise plan
- Provision of aids, devices, and bracing to support weakened muscles
- Workplace and job modification
- Education of family and friends concerning new health problems and interventions required to treat the late effects of polio
- Linkages to patient and family supports, including the MedStar NRH Polio Support Group, the community-based Polio Society, and other resources