✍ Are you or someone you know experiencing a change which makes it exhausting to complete your normal work or perform normal living tasks? Do you have new or increased pain which you can’t explain?
✍ Did you or someone you know have polio?
✍ Did you or someone you know ever have temporary paralysis in one or more limbs, connected with a high fever or flu-like symptoms?
✍ Did an illness ever leave you or someone you know with some permanent weakness?
✍ Did an illness ever leave you or someone you know with permanent, but maybe minor, loss of muscle (atrophy) in one or more limbs?
Fatigue, weakness, and pain can be caused by a variety of things. Good primary care doctors will search for the causes and recommend treatments and changes in living. This might require referral to an orthopedist, a podiatrist, a neurologist, a physiatrist (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation), a pulmonologist or a rheumatologist. If you or someone you know answers yes to any of the questions above, and once all other possible causes for the new pain and fatigue have been ruled out, your physicians should consider post-polio syndrome (PPS).
The late effects of polio have become clear in the past twenty-five years It is also clear that many people had undiagnosed polio which may have manifested as a high fever, temporary paralysis and minor to moderate muscle loss which you are someone you know “has just lived with”. Polio killed in the thousands. The remarkable thing is that polio survivors generally “recover” and go on to lead productive lives, sometimes in very physical occupations. Surviving muscle motor neurons sprout out to take over the work of the motor neurons destroyed by the polio virus. Yet 20 to 50 years after the initial polio attack many polio survivors experience dramatic new weakness and overwhelming fatigue. Sprouted “replacement” motor neuron cease to function due to all the extra work they had been doing to allow the survivor to “recover”. New weakness and pain result, which may occur in parts of the body which the survivor considered untouched by the polio virus. It is outright shocking to someone who didn’t even know he or she had had polio. This is post-polio syndrome (PPS).
It is important to note that polio survivors coming from outside of the USA might be as much as 40 years younger than polio survivors growing up here. The US polio eradication date was 1967. Eradication was decades later in parts of Latin America; and polio is still not eradicated in parts of Asia and Africa. Logically, more immigrants means more polio survivors with PPS who are not aware that they have it.
There is no cure for PPS and no medicines have yet been approved to treat PPS. Yet it is possible to live well with PPS with the guidance of physicians and physical therapists who have been trained in polio. Sometimes braces and other assistive devices are needed, but everyone with PPS has to undergo major lifestyle changes to prevent going into irreversible decline.