Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome or CMT is a neuropathic disease that generally affects the peripheral nervous system. It is also a term used to describe several disorders of the nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy is the word used to describe disorders that affect the peripheral nerves.
The name of the disease came from the three physicians who first discovered the disorders in 1886. They are Jean-Marie Charcot and Pierre Marie from Paris, France and Howard Henry Tooth in Cambridge, England. CMT is also known as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN) or peroneal muscular atrophy.
Signs and Symptoms of CMT
The neuropathy of CMT affects both of the nerve cells in the central nervous system: the motor neurons and sensory neurons. The function of sensory neurons is to extract stimuli from the surroundings from the skin and the muscles and send the information through electrical impulses to the brain and the spinal cord. The brain and the spinal cord would then send the response using the motor neurons with impulses back to the muscles. In CMT both neurons are affected resulting in smaller and weaker muscles. The symptoms usually start at the lower limbs and would gradually affect the upper limbs. However, not all individuals affected with CMT will have the same symptoms and levels of severity. Additional symptoms can include:
- Smaller and weaker muscles in the legs, ankles, and feet
- Loss of sensation
- Muscle contractions
- Walking difficulty
- High foot arches
- Hammertoes or curled toes
The cause of CMT can be attributed to genes. It can occur when there is abnormality or mutation in the genes that involves the development of extremities.
The mutation has two effects on the neurons: it damages the nerves directly or damages the myelin sheath, the protective membrane coating the nerve. The abnormality will affect the impulses that are traveling between your limbs and the brain.
When the muscle on your feet is not able to receive the message from your brain, it would not contract as it should. The result is you will trip and fall. If the fall will cause a wound, your brain will not be able to receive any pain messages. This is dangerous since you will not be able to feel anything and you may have an infected wound without you knowing it.
If you think you are suffering from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome you should seek medical assistance. You may also be entitled to Social Security Disability Benefits. The SSA considered Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome as a medical condition that would make you eligible for SSDI and SSI. Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a “Listing of Medical Impairments” (known as the blue book) that automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).