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CMT - Charcot-Marie-Tooth Channel

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Finding Support for Hereditary Neuropathy
By Trish Hughes Kreis

(Page 1 of 2)

Hereditary neuropathy is a group of disorders affecting the peripheral nervous system (sensory and/or motor functions) and is passed down through families.  There are hereditary neuropathic disorders affecting only the sensory functions or only the motor functions but there are also hereditary neuropathic disorders affecting both sensory and motor functions.  The most common hereditary neuropathy, which affects both sensory and motor functions, is Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), named after the three doctors who discovered it. 

CMT can be recognized as early as birth but actually can be diagnosed at any age.  Clumsiness, weak leg muscles and fatigue are early warning symptoms.  More common symptoms include numbness and tingling of the feet, “hammer toes,” a high arched foot as well as a high stepping gait.  CMT closely resembles other neuropathic disorders so a doctor may use several tests (such as an EMG or genetic test) as well as family history to make an accurate diagnosis. 

Many times the disorder is first seen in the teenage years.  This can be a difficult disorder for anyone to live with but teenagers are notorious for not wanting to be different.  Toss in leg braces, clumsiness or even surgery and even the most easy-going teenager can turn depressed and surly.  Family caregivers may not know where to turn for help but should start with their medical professional for treatment options of the physical symptoms as well as the possible depression.

Although there is no cure for CMT the symptoms can be managed through a combination of therapies including pain management medications, physical and occupational therapies.  In addition, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback or meditation can provide help and relief of some symptoms associated with CMT.  Physical therapy, in particular, is extremely important in order to maintain the use of the leg muscles as much as possible.  A physical therapist can design exercise programs to fit the individual’s needs and address the specific areas of muscle weakness the person living with CMT is experiencing.


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