Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
There's no cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. But, the disease generally progresses slowly, and the expected length of life isn't shortened by the disorder.
There are some treatments to help you manage Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
Some, but not all people with the disease may experience pain due to muscle cramps or nerve damage. If pain is an issue for you, prescription pain medication may help control your pain.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy can help strengthen and stretch your muscles to prevent muscle tightening and loss. A physical therapy program usually consists of low-impact exercises and stretching techniques guided by a trained physical therapist and approved by your doctor. Started early and followed regularly, physical therapy can play an important part in delaying nerve deterioration and muscle weakness before disability occurs.
- Occupational therapy. Some people with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease may experience weakness in their arms and hands, causing difficulty with gripping and finger movement. Normal daily activities, such as fastening buttons or writing, can become difficult. Occupational therapy can help you deal with such challenges through the use of assistive devices, such as special rubber grips on doorknobs or clothing with snaps instead of buttons.
Orthopedic devices. Many people with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease require the help of certain orthopedic devices to maintain everyday mobility and to prevent injury. Leg and ankle braces or splints can provide stability during walking and climbing stairs.
Wearing boots or high-top shoes may provide additional ankle support. Custom-made shoes or shoe inserts may improve your gait. If you have hand weakness and difficulty with gripping and holding things, thumb splints may help.
If foot deformities are severe, corrective foot surgery may help alleviate pain and improve your ability to walk. But surgery can't improve weakness or loss of sensation.
Researchers are investigating a number of potential therapies that may one day treat Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Gene therapy might be able to fix the genetic defect that causes the disease, while other treatments are focusing on correcting the damage done by the defective genes. These potential therapies are all in the earliest stages, and aren't yet being studied in humans. However, the may offer hope for the future.
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/charcot_marie_tooth/detail_charcot_marie_tooth.htm. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- 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 Jan. 12, 2013.
- Aminoff MJ, et al. Clinical Neurology. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=66. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Patzko A, et al. Update on Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Current Neurology Neuroscience Report. 2011;11:78.
- Patzko A, et al. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and related genetic neuropathies. Continuum Lifelong Learning in Neurology. 2012;18:39.