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Late Effects of Polio (LEP) or Post Polio Syndrome (PPS)

Several years ago I met a friend after several years who, like me had had Polio (Infantile Paralysis). Rather disturbingly he was finding that an arm that had functioned almost perfectly was, as he approached middle age, getting weaker and weaker. The doctors were stumped until he happened upon a specialist who identified the problem as Post Polio Syndrome. All over the world polio victims in our age bracket had been reporting similar symptoms and it was the Americans who coined the name Post Polio Syndrome. In the UK - I think because of a more specialised definition of syndrome - the medics tend to prefer to call it "Late Effects of Polio" or "Post Polio Sequelae" (Those doctors who have even heard of it are still very much in a minority in the UK).

At first, because it so dramatically mimicked the original symptoms, there was speculation in some quarters that the virus had re-awakened and was continuing it's damage. Soon, however, wiser counsels prevailed and it was recognised that the normal ageing process was aggravating the damage caused by the original virus.

One of the common symptoms is Sleep Apnea [Link no longer available CM] which can be significantly ameliorated - at least in my case - by the use of a Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine which aids breathing at night. The effect of Apnea is fitful sleep (you suffer from oxygen starvation so your brain keeps waking you to say "Breathe damn you!!") and resultant profound tiredness during the day. According to my specialist it puts a severe strain on all the vital organs and being strapped to a reverse vacuum cleaner at night (my description) is a small price to pay! Whether or not you have had polio, if you snore a lot and feel constantly tired it is well worth asking your GP for a sleep study.

A Working Definition of LEP

An otherwise unexplained constellation of symptoms which may include weakness, fatigue, pain, heat or cold intolerance, and swallowing, breathing, or sleep disturbance developing in a patient who had paralytic polio. Post Polio Muscle Atrophy (PPMA) has been used as the label for the above symptoms when they include progressive muscle atrophy.[endnote 4]

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