What Is Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease?

Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease sounds like something from a fictional book, when in reality it is a real medical condition. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease is a hereditary sensory and motor neuropathy (neuropathy occurs when nerve damage takes place) that generally affects the nerves of the outer extremities such as the arms and legs. Symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease typically include muscle weakness and/or decreased muscle bulk. In fact, one of the character features of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease is the distinct wasting of the distal extremities, especially in regards to the muscle groups which are in the calves, because of this muscle wasting, many individuals who suffer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease develop characteristics which are often times referred to as “stork-legged”.

What are the Symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease?

 

Symptoms that are commonly associated with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease include muscle weakness and decreased muscle bulk (as previously stated). However, the symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease can vary among individuals, even family members (because the disease is hereditary multiple family members can suffer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease). The symptoms usually begin in the feet or legs but can eventually affects the hands as well as arms. Foot abnormalities like high arches or hammertoes (curled toes) are very common among those who suffer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. Because of the muscle wasting and weakening many individuals who suffer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease have problems with walking and balance. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease symptoms usually do not cause pain but can include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Weakness in the feet, ankles or legs
  • Decreased Muscle Bulk in the Feet & Legs
  • High Foot Arches
  • Hammertoes (curled toes)
  • Difficulty Running
  • Difficulty with motions of lifting the foot at the ankle (known as a footdrop)
  • Higher than normal (or awkward) gait
  • Frequently tripping or falling
  • Decreased sensations in the feet and legs
  • Numbness in the feet and legs

Generally speaking the symptoms and signs of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease that occur in the feet and legs will only increase over time as the disease progresses and when this occurs symptoms may not be only located around the lower extremities but can move to the thighs, and hands and arms. When the most severe cases of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease occur individuals may have need for assistance with the aid of wheelchair, leg braces, special shoes, or other orthopedic devices that can help them battle the symptoms that they are experiencing better.

Treating Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

The main problem with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease is that it is a form of neuropathy, which occurs when nerve damage takes place. In most cases of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease genetic mutations occur which result in the damage to the nerve itself, while in other cases the nerve damage is the result of mutations to the myelin sheath (the protective coating that surrounds the nerve), in either case the end result is the same, symptoms occur that interrupt the messages that travel between the extremities (usually the lower extremities) of the body and the brain. Unfortunately at this time there is no cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, only treatment options to lessen or decrease the symptoms. The best option for treatment involves a route which will provide the most relief and decreased symptoms on a personal level for each individual sufferer of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. The key to treatment is management of the symptoms which can be achieved through overall healthier lifestyles, cessation of smoking, avoidance of toxins, limited alcohol consumption, and adaptation to daily nutrition and exercise routines.

Suggestions

There are a few suggestions for those who are prone to be diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. Because it is a hereditary neuropathy disorder there are some practices that should be carefully watched by those who have Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease running in their family genes. These suggestions are as follows:

  1. Diabetic Individuals should always try and practice extreme care when it comes to properly controlling their glucose levels. Also the practice of daily foot care and foot evaluations should be completed on a daily basis in order to avoid nerve damage from occurring.
  2. The practice of avoiding immunosuppressive drugs or immunoglobulin therapies can help to reduce the chance of being diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, especially for those who might have this heredity abnormality running in their family genes.
  3. The last suggestion for those who might be prone to a diagnosis of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease is to immediately treat any signs or symptoms that may occur in regards to Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease in order to reduce further nerve damage from occurring and reduce the overall effects of the disease.

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