Diagnosis of Polio

By  , Expert Content
Mar 01, 2012

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Diagnosis of polioPolio is diagnosed on the basis of history and clinical presentation. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will do tests.

Medical history: Some questions that your doctor may ask include:

  • What are your symptoms
  • When did the symptoms start
  • Are you taking any medications

Physical exam: During physical exam, your doctor will look for neurological signs and symptoms of polio such as limb weakness or paralysis (it is usually asymmetrical i.e. one side of the body may be affected more), muscle reflexes, swallowing or breathing problems, abnormal muscle contractions and decreased muscle tone.

Lab tests for polio:
Tests are done to confirm polio. Some tests that are done to confirm polio infection include:

  • Virus culture: The laboratory diagnosis of polio is confirmed by isolation of virus by cultures, from the stool or throat swab or cerebrospinal fluid (rare). In an infected person, the virus is most likely to be cultured in stool cultures.
  • Serologic test: Acute and convalescent serum sample may be tested for rise in antibody titer (antibodies to the poliovirus), but the report can be difficult to interpret as in many cases, the rise in titer may occur prior to paralysis.   
  • Cerebrospinal fluid test: Infection with polio virus may cause an increased number of white blood cells and a mildly elevated protein level in cerebrospinal fluid.

Differential diagnosis: Your doctor may do tests to rule out other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms before making a polio diagnosis. Some other medical conditions that may have similar symptoms include:

  • Snake bite (such as a cobra)
  • Poisoning
  • Infections such as diphtheria, tick paralysis, rabies
  • Botulism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Transverse myelitis




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