Charcot Marie Tooth is a hereditary neuromuscular disorder
which affects the peripheral nerves
. It is also known as Peroneal Muscular Atrophy
. While not a form of muscular dystrophy
, CMT has things in common with a few muscular dystrophy
- is one of the most common (some say THE most common) hereditary neurological disorders. 1 in ever 2,500 people in the USA are said to suffer from CMT.
- is usually diagnosed in late childhood/early adulthood.
- symptoms usually include: foot deformities (a very high arch is common, or completely flat feet, or 'claw toes'), difficulties with walking.
- disorder has two common varieties: in type I, nerves in arms and legs thicken and/or gain an abnormal fatty covering on nerve fibers. Therefore, the speed at which nervous impulses are conducted is reduced. In type II, the central part of the nerve deteriorates. There is no reduction of speed at which nervous impulses travel, but you lose some nerves, so to speak.
In either case, the impaired functioning of the nervous system in the outer limbs (feet, hands, arms, legs) are the source of the aforementioned foot deformities and difficulties with walking.
- symptoms often worsen as you age, due to progressive deterioration of peripheral nerves in arms and legs.
- does not affect lifespan, and only rarely do those with CMT need crutches/wheelchairs. does not affect or impair intellectual functioning.
- has no "cure", but the gene for type I CMT has been isolated, and a great deal of research is being done on genetic therapy for CMT. for now, physical therapy and various forms of leg braces and support for weakened limbs are what is available.
- the disease is hereditary, but symptoms can vary wildly within a family.
information largely gleaned from the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association.
Basically, if you have CMT, your lifestyle and career choices are somewhat hampered; you will probably not be able to become a musician (which needs a great deal of manual dexterity), or an acrobat (needs extraordinary strength and agility, both of which are impacted by CMT). However, since mobility is usually not severely impaired, and those with CMT have a fully functional brain, pretty much every semi-sedentary life path is still open to them. And sports are usually not a problem, as long as you realize that you'll never be a professional athlete.
CMT is much more frustrating to have as a child than an adult; many are not diagnosed until very late in their adolescence, and they spend their childhood wondering why the heck they are (comparitively) weaklings.