Poliomyelitis is perhaps better known as polio or infantile paralysis. It's a viral disease that affects neuromuscular function in the body. Because it affects the nerves, it can lead to partial or total paralysis. Countries around the world who regularly immunize children against polio have seen its near eradication, but areas around the world without such access continue to experience polio outbreaks. Pregnant women, children and elderly individuals are more likely to contract the disease than others are.
Several different types of poliomyelitis can be diagnosed, including non-paralytic and paralytic poliomyelitis. Treatment for poliomyelitis depends on which type is diagnosed as well as symptoms and test results.
Tests for poliomyelitis include routine central nervous function (CNF) exams, blood tests that test the level of antibodies to the poliovirus, and throat cultures, stool cultures and cerebrospinal fluid cultures.
Treatments for poliomyelitis are based on the severity of symptoms. Common treatments may include but are not limited to:
There is no cure for polio, although a series of polio vaccines, given several times during a child's early years of development, are capable of protecting children as well as adults from the poliovirus. Most countries around the world have eradicated or substantially reduced the number of polio cases reported on a yearly basis due to polio vaccines and immunizations.
Physical therapy may help individuals regain strength and mobility. Such therapy is often combined with the use of corrective braces or support offered by canes or walkers for those who have experienced loss of muscle or nerve function because of the disease process. Orthopedic surgery that corrects muscle deformities may help individuals recover muscle function, strength and stability.
In situations where the brain or the spinal cord is affected, serious complications may develop including difficulty breathing, paralysis, and even death. However, when it comes to polio, disability is a more common result than death.
Non-paralytic forms of the disease are treated depending on the area of the body affected. A majority of individuals diagnosed with poliomyelitis, as long as the polio has not involved the spinal cord or the brain, can expect 90% to 100% recovery potential.
Because polio most often affects children under the age of five, prevention measures, identification and treatment is often under the supervision of a pediatrician. A general medical practitioner and specialists in neurology and orthopedics may also be consulted in such treatment, or following a diagnosis of poliomyelitis, regardless of the age of the patient.
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