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NINDS Post-Polio Syndrome Information Page

Condensed from Post-Polio Syndrome Fact Sheet

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What is Post-Polio Syndrome?

Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a condition that affects polio survivors many years after recovery from an initial attack of the poliomyelitis virus. PPS is characterized by a further weakening of muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection. The most common symptoms include slowly progressive muscle weakness, fatigue (both general and muscular), and a decrease in muscle size (muscular atrophy). Pain from joint deterioration and increasing skeletal deformities such as scoliosis are common. Some individuals experience only minor symptoms, while others develop more visible muscle weakness and atrophy.  PPS is rarely life-threatening but the symptoms can interfere significantly with the individual's capacity to function independently.   While polio is contagious, PPS is not transmissible.  Only a polio survivor can develop PPS.

Is there any treatment?

Presently, no prevention has been found that can stop deterioration or reverse the deficits caused by the syndrome  A number of controlled studies have demonstrated that nonfatiguing exercises may improve muscle strength and reduce tiredness.  Doctors recommend that polio survivors follow standard healthy lifestyle practices: consuming a well-balanced diet, exercising judiciously (preferably under the supervision of an experienced health professional), and visiting a doctor regularly. There has been much debate about whether to encourage or discourage exercise for polio survivors or individuals who already have PPS.  A commonsense approach, in which people use individual tolerance as their limit, is currently recommended.  Preliminary studies indicate that intravenous immunoglobulin therapy may reduce pain, increase quality of life, and improve strength modestly.

What is the prognosis?

PPS is a very slowly progressing condition marked by long periods of stability.  The severity of PPS depends on the degree of the residual weakness and disability an individual has after the original polio attack. People who had only minimal symptoms from the original attack and subsequently develop PPS will most likely experience only mild PPS symptoms. People originally hit hard by the polio virus, who were left with severe residual weakness, may develop a more severe case of PPS with a greater loss of muscle function, difficulty in swallowing, and more periods of fatigue.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct research related to PPS in laboratories at the NIH, and also support additional PPS research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. 

NIH Patient Recruitment for Post-Polio Syndrome Clinical Trials


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Post-Polio Health International
4207 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108-2930
Tel: 314-534-0475
Fax: 314-534-5070

March of Dimes
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White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: 914-997-4488; 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
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Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified February 23, 2015