Merck Manual

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Postpolio Syndrome

(Postpoliomyelitis Syndrome)


Brenda L. Tesini

, MD, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Last full review/revision Sep 2019| Content last modified Sep 2019
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Postpolio syndrome is a condition of muscle fatigue and weakness that develops years or decades after a polio infection.

Some people who have had polio develop postpolio syndrome years or decades after they have recovered from polio. Postpolio syndrome is more likely to develop in older people who had a severe initial case of polio (paralytic poliomyelitis).

Muscles, usually those that were affected by polio, may become tired, painful, and weak and may waste away. However, in most people who have had polio, such symptoms are not due to postpolio syndrome but to the development of a new disorder, such as diabetes, a ruptured (herniated) disk, or osteoarthritis. The actual cause of postpolio syndrome is not clear but may be related to the effects of aging on nerve cells already affected by polio.

The diagnosis of postpolio syndrome is considered in people who have had polio and develop new symptoms of progressive weakness.


  • Supportive care

  • Physical therapy

Postpolio syndrome cannot be cured.

Treatments are supportive depending on which muscles are weak.

Specialized physical therapy and exercise programs may be used depending on which muscles are affected.

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