Don’t worry, Charcot-Marie tooth disease isn’t contagious. It’s an inherited disease that brings about nerve damage. Pronounced as ‘shahr-KOH’-Marie, this disease is sometimes to referred to as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy. With the word “tooth” in the name, you’d think it has something to do with teeth, but it is named for the trio of doctors who first identified it.
There are many forms of CMT out there, but they create much the same troubles for those that inherit it. Generally, you might experience a loss of sensation and have muscle contractions, typically in the arms and legs. It leads to difficulty walking and foot deformities like hammertoes or high arches. It all starts in your feet and legs but can eventually cause problems for your arms and hands too.
How To Know if You Have Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
If anyone in your family tree has ever been diagnosed with CMT, it’s important to get checked out. Since it’s genetic, you should keep your eyes out for the tell-tale symptoms which can include:
- Feelings of weakness in your legs or in the feet and ankles
- Losing muscle bulk in feet and legs
- High foot arches
- Loss of ability to run
- Trouble lifting your foot upward at the ankle
- Awkward gait
- Tripping and falling frequently
- Losing the sensation in your feet and legs
When the disease progresses, it can spread from the feet and legs upward to the arms and hands.
What Causes CMT?
Charcot-Marie tooth disease is genetic and inherited. When there are gene mutations that affect your nerves in your arms and legs, the mutations can damage the nerves or the protective coating around those nerves. This weakens the messages that are supposed to be sent through your nervous system from your legs and arms to your brain and vice versa.
In other words, your brain won’t get the message to contract and you’ll wind up tripping and falling. It might not get signals of pain in your feet either so a cut on your foot could go unnoticed and get infected without you even being aware.
That’s not all though. Other causes that create neuropathies like diabetes may give you symptoms like CMT, or worse. If you’re on medications for other conditions, you’ll definitely want to discuss your family history of CMT with your doctor to make sure anything you take doesn’t make it worse.
Unfortunately, no cure exists for CMT, however, there are ways to treat the symptoms. You can work with a physical therapist to help improve your muscle strength and live a full and happy life. Braces and other orthopedic devices like shoe inserts can help improve your ability to walk.
Surgeries might be necessary to help correct foot and joint deformities while pain management medications can assist with unbearable pains. Some opt for a combination of all these treatments to relieve the symptoms. If you think you might have CMT, make sure you speak to your doctor and start treating it before it progresses further.
About The Author:
Jennifer Raskin is a freelance writer, wife and mom that loves cold weather despite her location in Florida, cooking, reading, watching ‘80s movies, weight-lifting, and wine tasting.