Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is not, as it may appear at first glance, a problem to take to your dentist. It is actually an inherited neurological disorder whose unusual name comes from the two French neurologists, Jean Charcot and Pierre Marie, and the English doctor Howard Henry Tooth, who clinically described it in 1886.
Other names for this condition are Charcot-Marie-Tooth hereditary neuropathy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome, hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HNSN), and Peroneal Muscular Atrophy (PMA).
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) involves muscle weakness and loss of sensation, predominantly in the arms and legs, especially in the calves.
This disease affects the periphery nerves, which control muscles and send messages from the legs and arms to the brain. These messages give us our sense of touch.
The disorder generally makes itself known in childhood or adolescence, though this can happen at any age.
The earliest indicators of CMT are usually clumsiness and weakness in the ankles, feet and legs. The feet may be either extremely arched or extremely flat, and the toes may be curled upwards, into "hammertoes".
Walking is awkward due to weak ankle muscles which causes the individual to step higher than normal, or the toes may drop forward.
Arms and feet become numb. Injuries can occur due to lack of sensation. The lower legs are quite thin, and have been described as "stork legs".
Cramping can occur in the lower legs and forearms, and some of the body's reflexes deteriorate. The hands suffer weakness and atrophy in the muscles, and fine motor ability decreases.
Balance becomes precarious. The spine may curve (scoliosis). There may be some hearing or sight loss.
Symptoms vary widely from individual to individual. Some people will have mild symptoms that do not interfere with their ability to live normal lives. Very often though, numbness and weakness will have far-reaching effects.
While CMT does not affect life expectancy, there is no cure. But treatments are available that can make a difference in quality of life.
Physical therapy can stretch and strengthen the weak muscles.