Diagnose Polio by Knowing its Symptoms

Updated at: Oct 23, 2013
Diagnose Polio by Knowing its Symptoms

Polio is known as a disease that can cause paralysis and death, but most people infected with the virus don't become sick and are never aware that they've been infected with polio.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Communicable DiseasesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Mar 01, 2012

Polio or poliomyelitis is an infectious disease caused by polio virus. The virus can affect many parts of the body and the illness can even be fatal.

polio symptomsPolio is known as a disease that can cause paralysis and death, but most people infected with the virus don't become sick and are never aware that they've been infected with polio.


Based on the symptoms and severity of symptoms, polio can be categorised into three patterns of infections. These include:

  • Subclinical infections
  • Nonparalytic infections
  • Paralytic infections

According to research, about 95% of people infected with the polio virus do not develop any symptoms, however, when symptoms do occur, they can be serious.


Subclinical symptoms of polio: Majority of infections with polio virus do not cause any symptoms. Even when symptoms do appear, they are usually mild and subside within 72 hours. Considering that similar symptoms are caused in many other  common diseases, they may not be recognized as symptoms of polio. Symptoms of subclinical infection include:

  • General feeling of not being well
  • Headache
  • Malaise, lethargy and tiredness
  • Slight fever
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting


Nonparalytic polio: In some cases, the subclinical infection can progress to nonparalytic symptoms. The person does not develop paralysis, but has serious symtpoms. Symptoms of nonparalytic polio include:

  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Extreme tiredness, fatigue or malaise
  • Headache, irritability
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Moderate fever
  • Muscle pain and stiffness, the person can have tenderness and spasm in any area of the body
  • Pain in the calf muscles or back of the legs
  • Meningitis
  • Rash

These flu-like signs and symptoms are observed in many other viral illnesses. The symptoms can last for 1 to 10 days. The symptoms improve and the person has no residual paralysis or effect.

Paralytic polio: Rarely does infection with poliovirus cause paralytic polio. This is the most serious form of the disease. The three types of paralytic polio based on the part of your body that's affected include spinal cord (spinal polio), brainstem (bulbar polio) or both (bulbospinal polio).

In the initial stages of the disease, the signs and symptoms of paralytic polio appear similar to non-paralytic polio, which progresses in a few days to symptoms specific to paralytic polio or the onset of paralysis can be sudden. These include:

  • Loss of reflexes
  • Severe muscle aches or spasms
  • Loose and floppy limbs (flaccid paralysis) or muscle weakness that are often worse on one side of the body (asymmetrical)
  • Abdominal bloating and constipation
  • Pain or difficult in urination
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Drooling saliva
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch


Post-polio syndrome

If a person develops paralytic polio, a cluster of disabling signs and symptoms known as post-polio syndrome can affect them for decades. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Progressive muscle weakness or pain and muscle atrophy
  • Persistent joint weakness and pain
  • General fatigue and exhaustion after minimal activity
  • Breathing or swallowing problems
  • Sleep-related breathing problems such as sleep apnea
  • Increased sensitivity or decreased tolerance to cold temperatures


Read more articles on Polio.



All possible measures have been taken to ensure accuracy, reliability, timeliness and authenticity of the information; however Onlymyhealth.com does not take any liability for the same. Using any information provided by the website is solely at the viewers’ discretion. In case of any medical exigencies/ persistent health issues, we advise you to seek a qualified medical practitioner before putting to use any advice/tips given by our team or any third party in form of answers/comments on the above mentioned website.

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK