There are many causes for problems with peripheral nerves. These conditions are called peripheral neuropathy and common symptoms include numbness and weakness. If you experience progressing weakness or problems with balance, you may have a form of peripheral neuropathy called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is a progressive disease that affects sensory function or movement in the arms, legs, hands and feet. It's caused by an autoimmune reaction that damages the myelin coating that insulates and protects nerve fibers of the peripheral nervous system. (This includes nerves that connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body.)
How or why the myelin coating becomes damaged is not exactly clear, but the resulting inflammation of the nerves and nerve roots presents a variety of symptoms.
Symptoms of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
The disease is estimated to affect roughly 40,000 people in the U.S. The most common symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling that usually begins in the fingers or toes.
- Loss or slowing of reflexes.
- Pain or weakness that makes walking difficult.
- Balance disturbances.
- Unusual sensations in the extremities.
If you present with some or all of the symptoms listed above, your doctor may suggest tests to determine whether chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is the cause. Testing may include:
- Nerve conduction studies to measure how fast and how well your nerves are transmitting electrical signals.
- Electromyography (EMG) to evaluate muscle function.
- Lumbar puncture, in which spinal fluid is drawn to determine whether you have elevated protein levels in your system.
- Blood and/or urine tests to detect unusual proteins or rule out other disorders that may cause neuropathy.
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy presents differently in patients. For some, the disease course includes periods of sudden recovery or absence of symptoms. For many others, symptoms are steadily progressive. Regardless, if you've been experiencing symptoms for at least eight weeks, it's recommended that you be evaluated by a neurologist.
Treatment may include: