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Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

Progressive neuropathic (peroneal) muscular atrophy; Hereditary peroneal nerve dysfunction; Neuropathy - peroneal (hereditary); Hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a group of disorders passed down through families that affect the nerves outside the brain and spine. These are called the peripheral nerves.

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Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

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Causes

Charcot-Marie-Tooth is one of the most common nerve-related disorders passed down through families (inherited). Changes to at least 40 genes cause different forms of this disease.

The disease leads to damage or destruction to the covering (myelin sheath) around nerve fibers.

Symptoms

Nerves that stimulate movement (called the motor nerves) are most severely affected. The nerves in the legs are affected first and most severely.

Symptoms most often begin between mid-childhood and early adulthood. They may include:

Later, similar symptoms may appear in the arms and hands. These may include a claw-like hand.

Exams and Tests

A physical exam may show:

Nerve conduction tests are often done to identify different forms of the disorder. A nerve biopsy may confirm the diagnosis.

Genetic testing is also available for most forms of the disease.

Treatment

There is no known cure. Orthopedic surgery or equipment (such as braces or orthopedic shoes) may make it easier to walk.

Physical and occupational therapy may help maintain muscle strength and improve independent functioning.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease slowly gets worse. Some parts of the body may become numb, and pain can range from mild to severe. Eventually the disease may cause disability.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if there is ongoing weakness or decreased sensation in the feet or legs.

Prevention

Genetic counseling and testing is advised if there is a strong family history of the disorder.

Related Information

Numbness and tingling
Muscle atrophy
Myelin
Autosomal dominant
Autosomal recessive
Sex-linked recessive

References

Katirji B. Disorders of the peripheral nerves. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 107.

Sarnat HB. Hereditary motor-sensory neuropathies. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 613.

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Review Date: 8/6/2017  

Reviewed By: Anna C. Edens Hurst, MD, MS, Assistant Professor in Medical Genetics, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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