ComplicationsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Generally, post-polio syndrome is rarely life-threatening, but severe muscle weakness can lead to complications:
- Falls. Weakness in your leg muscles makes it easier for you to lose your balance and fall. A fall may result in a broken bone, such as a hip fracture, leading to other complications.
- Malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia. People who've had bulbar polio, which affects nerves leading to muscles involved in chewing and swallowing, often have difficulty with these activities as well as other signs of post-polio syndrome. Chewing and swallowing problems can lead to inadequate nutrition and to dehydration, as well as aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by inhaling (aspirating) food particles into your lungs.
- Acute respiratory failure. Weakness in your diaphragm and chest muscles makes it harder to take deep breaths and cough, which can ultimately lead to accumulation of fluid and mucus in your lungs. Obesity, smoking, curvature of the spine, anesthesia, prolonged immobility and certain medications can further decrease breathing ability, possibly leading to acute respiratory failure. This is characterized by a sharp drop in blood oxygen levels and may require you to receive treatment to help you breathe (ventilation therapy).
- Osteoporosis. Prolonged inactivity and immobility are often accompanied by loss of bone density and osteoporosis, in both men and women. If you have post-polio syndrome, you may wish to be screened for osteoporosis.
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