WHAT IS CMT?
CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (named after the 3 medical professionals who first identified CMT) is also known as Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy (HMSN).
It is a common but frequently undiagnosed condition.
CMT is not a contagious disease, but is an inherited neurological disease, and in some families has a 50% chance of being passed onto other generations. Research has indicated that as many as 1 in 2,500 people in Australia could have CMT.
CMT is not life threatening, although people with CMT have it for life.
CMT causes slow degeneration of the peripheral nerves including feet, legs, arms and hands. Typically muscles are weakened due to the loss of stimulation by affected nerves.
The severity of the disease can vary a great deal from person to person, even within the same family. The symptoms are also varied.
Types of CMT
There are over 50 types of CMT with no known cure for CMT at this point in time. However, significant research is being done in Australia and overseas to find one.
- CMT Type 1A (PMP 22 gene)
- CMT Type 1B
- CMT Type 2 CMT
- Type 2A
- CMT X Linked
A common symptom of CMT is weakness in leg muscles which affects your co-ordination and balance in such things as walking, running, walking up or down stairs, walking on uneven ground, standing still, or standing for long periods of time.
Other symptoms which may affect CMT patients include: tremors, fatigue and diminishing fine motor skills.
Foot abnormalities such as high arched feet, or in some cases flat feet, weak ankles and tendon tightening, pose the most serious problems.
Sometimes patients may need to wear foot orthoses, or braces, or undergo surgery.
Hand Function Abnormalities
Even the simplest things, functions we take for granted, like unscrewing a bottle top, fastening buttons, turning on a tap, or opening a door handle, can pose problems for those with muscle wastage in the hands.
Untidy hand writing due to not having control over the muscles and nerves in the hands and fingers can pose a big problem for both children and adults.
The Good News
Significant progress is being made regarding CMT management strategies that have the potential to provide a fulfilling and healthy life.
- Healthy Living: appropriate stretching, exercise and diet
- Orthotics for the Feet: to increase mobility and standing stability
- Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFOs): for the legs for increased mobility and stability
- Assistive Technology: to improve quality of life
- Neurology: diagnosis and medical care
- Physiotherapy: exercise, rehabilitation and stretching
- Occupational Therapy: assistive devices for home, work and school
- Podiatry: general foot care, orthoses and footwear
- Orthopaedic Surgeons: bone abnormalities of feet, knees, hips and spine
CMT Australia strongly encourages people with CMT to participate in as many regular daily activities as possible and to develop skills in areas that they can excel in.