Diagnosing post-polio syndrome  

Post-polio syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because there are no specific tests for it and symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions.

Your GP may suspect post-polio syndrome based on your medical history and the results of a physical examination. For example, it may be suspected if:

  • you had polio in the past, followed by a long period (usually at least 15 years) of no symptoms
  • your symptoms have developed gradually (sudden symptoms are more likely to be caused by a different condition)

As the symptoms of post-polio syndrome can be similar to those of several other conditions, such as arthritis, some tests may be needed to rule out any other possible causes of your problems. These may include blood tests and X-rays of your chest, spine or joints.

Referral to a specialist

If your GP is unsure whether you have post-polio syndrome, you may be referred to a hospital consultant for further testing.

Tests you may have to rule out other conditions, or to confirm whether it's likely you have post-polio syndrome, may include:  

  • electromyography (EMG) tests to determine whether polio has damaged your nerves and muscles – an EMG measures the electrical activity in your muscles and nerves
  • sleep studies if you are having problems sleeping (such as sleep apnoea) or are feeling unusually tired – read more about diagnosing sleep apnoea
  • tests to check your heart rate and function
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computerised tomography (CT) scan of your bones and muscles
  • lung function tests to measure how well you can breathe, such as spirometry
  • tests to investigate swallowing problems (dysphagia) – read more about diagnosing dysphagia

It's possible to have post-polio syndrome alongside other conditions, so not every health problem or symptom you experience may be related to the condition.

Page last reviewed: 26/08/2015

Next review due: 01/08/2018