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Post-Polio

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What is Post-Polio Syndrome?

Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) is a condition that can strike polio survivors anywhere from 10 to 40 years after their recovery from polio. PPS is caused by the death of individual nerve terminals in the motor units that remain after the initial polio attack. Symptoms include fatigue, slowly progressive muscle weakness, muscle and joint pain, and muscular atrophy. The severity of PPS depends upon how seriously the survivors were affected by the first polio attack. Doctors estimate the incidence of PPS at about 25 percent of the survivor population. The only way to be sure a person has PPS is through a neurological examination aided by other laboratory studies (for example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neuroimaging, electrophysiological studies, and muscle biopsies or spinal fluid analysis).

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Is there any treatment?

At present, no treatment can cure or prevent PPS. Some experimental drug treatments, including pyridostigmine and seligiline, show promise in treating symptoms of the disorder. Doctors recommend that polio survivors follow standard healthful lifestyle practices: consuming a healthful diet, exercising in moderation, and visiting a doctor regularly.

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What is the prognosis?

PPS is a very slowly progressing condition that is marked by long periods of stability. PPS patients, compared with control populations, do not show any elevation in antibodies against the polio virus, and since PPS affects only certain muscle groups, doctors question whether the polio virus can cause a persistent infection in humans. Except in people with severe respiratory impairment, PPS is not usually life-threatening.

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What research is being done?

Scientists are studying a number of possible treatments for post-polio syndrome, including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and other growth factors. Other researchers are looking at the mechanisms behind fatigue, and trying to tease out information from the brain, muscles, and neuromuscular junction (the site at which a nerve cell meets the muscle it helps activate). Scientists are also trying to determine if there is an immunological link in this disorder

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Organizations

Post-Polio Health International

Polio Connection of America

March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation

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Post-Polio