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Post-polio syndrome
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Post-polio syndrome

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Shortly after, vaccines were developed that greatly reduced its spread. Today, hardly anyone in developed countries gets polio, and the disease is well on its way to being eliminated in developing countries, thanks to massive immunization efforts with oral polio vaccine.

But for some people, some of the initial problems they had with polio are reappearing in a condition called post-polio syndrome (PPS). The cause is unknown, but new research is beginning to yield a better understanding of this complex syndrome.

Screening and diagnosis

To arrive at a diagnosis of PPS, doctors look for three indicators:

  • Previous diagnosis of polio. This may require finding old medical records or getting information from older family members, because acute polio primarily occurs during childhood. The late effects of polio usually occur in people who were age 10 or older during the initial attack of polio and whose symptoms were often severe.

  • Long interval following recovery. People who recover from the initial attack of polio often live for many years without further symptoms. The onset of late effects varies widely but typically begins 10 to 40 years after the initial diagnosis.

  • Gradual onset. Weakness tends to be imperceptible until it interferes with daily activities. You may awaken refreshed but feel exhausted by the early afternoon, tiring after activities that were once easy.

In addition, because the signs and symptoms of post-polio syndrome are similar to those commonly associated with other disorders, your doctor will attempt to exclude other possible causes, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or scoliosis.

Some people with post-polio syndrome worry that they may be getting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease. But the late effects of polio are not a form of ALS.

Some of the tests your doctor may use to rule out alternative diagnoses include:

  • Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies. Electromyography measures the tiny electrical discharges produced in muscles. A thin-needle electrode is inserted into the muscles your doctor wants to study. An instrument records the electrical activity in your muscle at rest and as you contract the muscle. In a variation of EMG, two electrodes are taped to your skin above a nerve to be studied. A small shock is passed through the nerve to measure the speed of nerve signals. These tests are help identify and exclude conditions such as neuropathy, an abnormal condition of your nerves, and myopathy, a muscle tissue disorder.

  • Imaging. You may undergo tests such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan to produce images of your brain and spinal cord. These tests can help exclude spinal disorders such as spondylosis, a degenerative spine condition, or spinal stenosis, a narrowing of your spinal column that puts pressure on your nerves.

  • Blood tests. People with PPS usually have normal blood samples. Abnormal blood test results may indicate another underlying problem that's causing your symptoms.

Post-polio syndrome > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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