Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

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Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is a group of inherited disorders caused by a mutation in genes. It affects movement and feeling in your arms and legs. The disease progresses slowly and causes harm to the nerves that control muscles and transmit sensation.

At the Adult Neurology clinic, you'll get high quality and specialized care from our neuromuscular physicians, clinical nurses, therapy teams, social workers and muscular dystrophy association representatives.

Our providers can do genetic tests to confirm the gene responsible for your symptoms and offer advice for more specific treatment.

We also work closely with other specialties, such as orthopedic surgery and genetics, as needed for your care.

CMT Types & Symptoms

There are several different types of CMT. They can be:

  • Type 1—This type affects the coating (like insulation on a wire) of the nerve, called the myelin sheath, causing nerve impulses to travel more slowly. It usually appears in children and teens. It is the most common type of CMT.
  • Type 2—This type affects the part of the nerve called the axon. The speed of impulses in the nerves is normal, but the size or amount of impulses is less than normal. This type of CMT is less common. It usually occurs after the teen years.
  • Type 3—Also called Dejerine-Sottas disease, this is a rare, severe form of CMT. It is sometimes thought to be a subtype of CMT Type 1.
  • Type 4—This is like Type 1, but often with less severe symptoms. If you have it, you are less likely to pass it on to your children.

There are a number of other subtypes that are much less common.

Your symptoms depend on the type of CMT you have. Symptoms often start before age 30. The first sign is often a high arched foot, problems walking, or difficulty to get shoes to fit.

You may also have:

  • Flexed toes
  • A hard time holding the foot up in a horizontal position
  • Slapping of the feet on the floor when walking
  • Muscle cramping, weakness in the legs—can spread to the arms later in life
  • Decreased feeling in the feet and legs
  • Problems with balance

Type 3 symptoms:

  • Babies who learn to walk late due to weakness of the leg muscles
  • Severe sensory problems
  • Hearing loss

Charcot-Marie-Tooth Diagnosis & Treatment

The neuromuscular physicians will review your symptoms and medical history with your provider. A physical exam will be done.

You may have nerve and muscle functions tested. This can be done with:

There is no cure, but treatment may help to reduce symptoms. You may need:

  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Braces on your lower legs
  • Shoe inserts to correct foot deformities
  • Foot care and routine exams with a foot specialist
  • Surgery

Can You Prevent CMT?

There are no known ways to prevent CMT. If you or a family member have CMT or have risk factors for it, you may want to talk to a genetic counselor to understand the risk of passing on the disease to your children.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.