In a rare few, polio’s virus can cause permanent paralysis, or sometimes death. Thus, it is likewise referred to as poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis.
Polio is virtually eradicated in the U.S. due to a countrywide polio vaccine program. However, wild poliovirus continues to burden some developing populations with its paralytic disorder. Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan are recent outbreak regions.
Although primary polio vaccination series generally affords a lifetime of immunity, the CDC highly recommends a booster dose of inactivated poliovirus prior to a visit to the aforementioned high risk areas. Better polio safe, then paralysis sorry.
The majority of those infected with the polio virus will not experience symptoms. Yet, they can still spread the virus for several weeks. In fact, polio vaccinated folks can also be a carrier without knowledge.
The majority of those that do experience polio symptoms complain of:
These flu like symptoms tend to last for under a week.
Post recovery, a small number of these sufferers may develop viral meningitis, nonparalytic poliomyelitis or paralytic poliomyelitis. Non paralytic poliomyelitis symptoms might involve:
- back pain
- moderate fever
- muscle spasms
- muscle stiffness
- painful skin rash
- muscle tenderness
- neck pain, stiffness
Symptoms usually last a couple of weeks, and future paralysis is not a health concern.
Paralytic poliomyelitis is the most severe form of polio. Unfortunately, heaped upon these other polio causing symptoms is paralysis. And the areas of your body that will be affected depends on where along your spinal cord or brainstem the motor neurons have been destroyed.
Some symptoms unique to paralytic form of poliomyelitis are:
- muscle pain
- breathing issues
- urination problems
- swallowing difficulties
- muscular contractions
- bloated abdominal feeling
- painful sensitivity to touch
- limbs appear loose & floppy
- single sided muscle weakness
- abnormal sensations in an area
Paralytic polio symptoms often comes on suddenly and are usually worse on one side of your body. Even though the paralysis is irreversible, you maintain your sense of feeling.
No cure nor treatment exist for polio, and nothing is available to reverse poliomyelitis causing paralysis. Comfort, recovery and complication prevention are the treatment goals while your myelitis causing infection runs its course.
Polio supportive treatment entails:
- moist heat
- pain analgesics
- moderate exercise
- ventilator assisted breathing
- antibiotics ~ secondary bacterial infections
Post polio syndrome affects some who have previously recovered from acute polio decades ago. This syndrome is a very slow progressing condition and rarely life threatening.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- joint pain
- sleep apnea
- muscle ache
- general fatigue
- cold intolerance
- breathing difficulty
- swallowing problems
- new muscle weakness
- exhaustion after minimal activity
Certain circumstances relating to your initial infection seem to increase your chances of struggling with post polio syndrome, such as:
- greater recovery
- exhaustive physical activity
Presently, there is no way to prevent post-polio syndrome. And because its symptoms vary, there’s no one specific treatment. Goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and provide comfort.
Recommendations to be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle point to:
- stay warm
- balanced diet
- stop smoking
- protect your lungs
- energy conservation
- sleep apnea treatment
- decrease caffeine intake
- current flu & pneumonia vaccinations
- aspirin, NSAIDs ~ ease muscle & joint pain
- exercise to maintain fitness, while avoiding overuse
A commonsense approach to exercise, using your individual tolerance as the limit, is the current recommendation.
Paralitic polio and post polio syndrome may cause some complications, leading to:
- heart attack
- kidney stones
- paralytic ileus
- cor pulmonale
- lung problems
- muscular atrophy
- pulmonary edema
- abnormal heartbeat
- high blood pressure
- aspiration pneumonia
- congestive heart failure
- malnutrition & dehydration
Obviously, those at the greatest risk for being infected with polio have not been immunized. Other situations that put you in peril of infantile paralysis are:
- extreme stress
- mouth, throat surgery
- areas where polio is common
- strenuous physical activity after exposure
- compromised immune system ~ HIV infection
Get yourself vaccinated because it only takes one individual with polio to infect hundreds of others.