Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease may include:

  • Weakness in your legs, ankles and feet
  • Loss of muscle bulk in legs and feet
  • High foot arches
  • Curled toes (hammertoes)
  • Decreased ability to run
  • Difficulty lifting your foot at the ankle (footdrop)
  • Awkward or higher than normal step (gait)
  • Frequent tripping or falling
  • Decreased sensation or a loss of feeling in your legs and feet

As Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease progresses, symptoms may spread from the feet and legs to the hands and arms. The severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, even among family members.

Causes

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is an inherited, genetic condition. It occurs when there are mutations in the genes that affect the nerves in your feet, legs, hands and arms.

Sometimes, these mutations damage the nerves. Other mutations damage the myelin sheath, the protective coating that surrounds the nerve. Both cause weaker messages traveling between your extremities and brain.

That means some of the muscles in your feet may not receive your brain's signal to contract, so you're more likely to trip and fall. And your brain may not receive pain messages from your feet, so if you've rubbed a blister on your toe, for example, it may get infected without your realizing it.

Risk factors

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is hereditary, so you're at higher risk of developing the disorder if anyone in your immediate family has had the disease. Other causes of neuropathies, such as diabetes, may cause symptoms similar to or worsen Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Complications

Complications of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease vary in severity from person to person. Foot abnormalities and difficulty walking are usually the most serious problems. Muscles may get weaker, and you may injure areas of the body that experience decreased sensation.

You may also experience difficulty breathing, swallowing or speaking if the muscles that control these functions are affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

March 31, 2016
References
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  2. Facts about Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and related diseases. Muscular Dystrophy Association. http://www.mda.org/publications/facts-about-charcot-marie-tooth-related-diseases. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.
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  8. Important foot care for people with CMT. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Association. http://www.cmtausa.org/resource-center/treatment-management/foot-care/important-foot-care-for-people-with-cmt/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2016.
  9. Pedicure pointers. American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org/Learn/HealthyFeetTips.cfm?ItemNumber=9859. Accessed Jan. 29, 2016.