A practical approach to the late effects of Polio
Many surveys and clinical studies have been conducted into new symptoms experienced by people who previously had polio (11-20). A list of the most commonly reported symptoms follows.
Some of these symptoms are obviously related to increased muscle weakness. It is also possible that the feeling of fatigue that some people experience is related to an inflammatory component and, in some cases, lack of sleep and/or poor oxygenation due to inadequate breathing.
Weakened muscles which continue working may become worn and painful. Joints which are unprotected due to insufficient muscles may develop signs of mechanically induced wear and tear (degenerative joint disorder). Pain, in such instances, is related to movement and, in particular, when contracting the faulty muscle or putting weight on the irritated joint. It will usually get worse with continued activity.
Pain due to inflammation is not necessarily related to activity. It is, in fact, often noticeable after periods of rest. Mild inflammation may even improve with light exercise.
It is possible to have a combination of the two, a degenerative joint disorder combined with an inflammatory component. The pain pattern is then less clear.
Lack of oxygen results in fatigue, headaches and, in extreme cases, mental confusion.
Weakness of your chest muscles may reduce your ability to breathe properly. You will notice panting and a need to take frequent deep breaths, especially when you make a physical effort. It can also result in frequent chest infections.
If the brain stem is affected, it may also affect your breathing but in a different manner. In this case it is the central control mechanism of breathing which is impaired, rather than lack of muscle strength, resulting in slower breathing. If your chest muscles are strong, this condition may become a problem only during the night, when you cannot make a conscious effort to improve your breathing because you are asleep and unaware of the slow-down of your respiration.
If both your central breathing control mechanism and chest muscles are weak, you will be in more serious trouble, probably needing some help with breathing, either intermittently or constantly.
Apnoea during sleep may result in sleep disturbances, irritability due to lack of sleep, morning headaches and, in severe cases, even mental confusion due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Sleep apnoea is often associated with excessive snoring and is usually noticed by the person who sleeps (or tries to) in the same room.
New weakness of the muscles of the throat may result in flaccid tissues, which make it difficult to swallow and/or speak. Food may get stuck in the throat, in particular with repeated swallowing, or your voice may become weak, particularly if strained, e.g. following screaming, singing or public speaking.
© Copyright The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network 1997 - 2010.
This document comprises an index, introduction and sixteen other sections or subdocuments. Permission for printing copies is granted only on the basis that ALL sections are printed in their entirety and kept together as a single document.
Document preparation: Chris
Think-tank, Cornwall, United Kingdom.
Document Reference: <URL:http://www.zynet.co.uk/ott/polio/lincolnshire/library/australia/paleop/sectn_06.html>
Created: 30th December 1997
Last modification: 20th January 2010.