Public Health

Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT): Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

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Country music star, Alan Jackson, revealed he has a degenerative neurological condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). The popular singer, 62, opened up about the condition that has been affecting his ability to walk and causes balance issues on stage.

“I have this neuropathy and neurological disease,” said Jackson. “It’s genetic that I inherited from my daddy […] There’s no cure for it, but it’s been affecting me for years. And it’s getting more and more obvious. And I know I’m stumbling around on stage. And now I’m having a little trouble balancing, even in front of the microphone, and so I just feel very uncomfortable.”

Jackson went on to say, “It’s not deadly, but it’s related to muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease.”

What are the details of CMT and how is it diagnosed? We’re here to provide information with expert guidance from Nivedita Jerath, MD, Medical Director for Neuromuscular Medicine at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute.

What is CMT

“Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, often called CMT, affects the peripheral nervous system and causes many symptoms including sensory loss, weakness, pain, and balance difficulties,” explains Dr. Jerath. “Although it may cause disability for some, and difficulty walking or using one’s hands, it doesn’t affect life expectancy.”

Charcot-Marie-Tooth (named after the physicians who first described it in 1886) is also known as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy. It’s one of the most common inherited neurological disorders and affects about 126,000 Americans and 2.6 million people worldwide. As in Alan Jackson’s case, nearly all cases are inherited.

CMT can affect the nerves that control your muscles. Symptoms usually begin in the feet and lower legs and then can affect the fingers, hands and arms. Presentations of CMT can be variable; most people with CMT have some level of physical disability, but some may never even know they have the disease.

Some CMT Symptoms

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Curled toes (hammertoes) High arches in the feet
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • Foot drop and difficulty walking
  • Tripping and struggling with balance
  • Trouble gripping and holding things
  • Pain

How is CMT Diagnosed?

“CMT is diagnosed by a neurologist, and many times confirmed with genetic testing if the gene is known,” explains Dr. Jerath. “The neurologist will do a medical history, exam and ask about family history. They may do electrodiagnostic testing, and genetic testing to help diagnose the condition.”

CMT Treatment for the Whole Person

While there is currently no cure for CMT, there is hope for living more comfortably through safe and effective treatments and therapies. Some options include:

  • Braces or splints to support the ankles and feet
  • Custom-made shoes and inserts
  • Hearing aids to support any hearing loss
  • Occupational and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles
  • Pain medications
  • Surgery to correct joint deformities

“You do not need to simply learn to live with the health conditions that are holding you back,” says Dr. Jerath. “We can help you manage conditions like CMT with a tailored care plan so you can live life to the fullest.”

At AdventHealth’s Neuromuscular Medicine Program, we can safely manage your neuropathy with state-of-the-art treatment and uncommon compassion. You deserve to feel whole and live your best life. Click here to find out more.

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