Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

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Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT) is a hereditary neurological disorder that affects the peripheral nerves, leading to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and various other symptoms. This condition is named after the three physicians who first described it in 1886: Jean-Martin Charcot, Pierre Marie, and Howard Henry Tooth. CMT is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders, affecting approximately 1 in every 2,500 people worldwide. It can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, but with proper management and support, individuals with CMT can lead fulfilling lives.

Muscle Weakness and Muscle Atrophy

Muscle weakness is one of the hallmark symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. The peripheral nerves, responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and muscles, are progressively damaged in individuals with CMT. As a result, the muscles receive fewer signals, leading to weakness and decreased muscle function. Over time, this can result in muscle atrophy, where the muscles shrink and lose their strength.

Foot Drop and High Arches

Foot drop is a common symptom of CMT, characterized by difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. This can cause the toes to drag while walking, leading to an abnormal gait. Additionally, individuals with CMT often have high arches, also known as pes cavus. High arches can contribute to instability while walking and increase the risk of ankle sprains.

Hammer Toes

Hammer toes, another common symptom of CMT, occur when the toes bend downward at the middle joint, resembling a hammer. This deformity can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty finding properly fitting footwear. It is important for individuals with CMT to wear supportive shoes that accommodate the shape of their feet.

Numbness, Tingling, and Loss of Sensation

CMT can also affect the sensory nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, and a loss of sensation in the affected areas. This can make it challenging to detect temperature changes, pain, or pressure, increasing the risk of injuries and burns. Regular foot inspections and maintaining good foot hygiene are crucial for individuals with CMT to prevent complications.

Difficulty with Fine Motor Skills

Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease can impact the muscles in the hands and fingers, leading to difficulties with fine motor skills. Tasks that require precise movements, such as buttoning a shirt or writing, may become challenging. Occupational therapy can be beneficial in improving dexterity and finding adaptive strategies to overcome these difficulties.


Scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, can occur in individuals with CMT. The weakened muscles and imbalances caused by the disease can contribute to the development of scoliosis. Regular monitoring and appropriate interventions, such as bracing or surgery, may be necessary to manage scoliosis in individuals with CMT.

Treatment and Management

While there is currently no cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, various treatment options and management strategies can help individuals with CMT lead fulfilling lives. Here are some tips:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, can help maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist can help develop a personalized exercise program and learn techniques to improve mobility and manage symptoms.
  • Orthotic devices: Custom-made orthotic devices, such as braces or shoe inserts, can provide support and improve stability while walking.
  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be recommended to manage pain associated with CMT.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists can provide strategies to improve fine motor skills and assist with adapting daily activities.
  • Regular check-ups: Routine monitoring by healthcare professionals is essential to identify any changes in symptoms and provide appropriate interventions.

It is important for individuals with CMT to work closely with a healthcare team that specializes in neurological disorders. They can provide guidance, support, and help develop a comprehensive management plan tailored to the individual’s needs.

In conclusion, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease is a hereditary neurological disorder that affects the peripheral nerves, leading to muscle weakness, foot drop, high arches, hammer toes, numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, difficulty with fine motor skills, and scoliosis. While there is no cure for CMT, proper management and support can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with this condition. By following the tips mentioned above and working closely with healthcare professionals, individuals with CMT can navigate the challenges posed by the disease and lead fulfilling lives.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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