Post-polio syndrome symptoms of pain, weakness, and fatigue can result from the overuse and misuse of muscles and joints. These same symptoms can also result from disuse of muscles and joints. This fact has caused a misunderstanding about whether to encourage or discourage exercise for polio survivors or individuals who already have post-polio syndrome.
(Click Post-Polio Syndrome and Exercise for more information.)
Post-polio syndrome is a very slow, progressive condition marked by long periods of stability.
The severity of post-polio syndrome will depend on the degree of the weakness and disability that remained after an individual had the original polio attack. People who had only minimal polio symptoms from the original attack and subsequently develop post-polio syndrome will most likely experience only mild symptoms. People who were originally hit hard by the poliovirus and were left with severe weakness may develop a more severe case of post-polio syndrome with a greater loss of muscle function, difficulty in swallowing, and more periods of fatigue.
(Click Post-Polio Syndrome Prognosis for more information.)
According to estimates by the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 440,000 polio survivors in the United States may be at risk for post-polio syndrome. Researchers are unable to establish a firm prevalence rate, but they estimate that this condition affects 25 percent to 50 percent of these survivors, or possibly as many as 60 percent.