Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is a group of related neurological disorders inherited through genetics. It affects the nerves, muscle bulk and strength, and sensation in the feet and legs. Occasionally it also affects the hands and arms as the disease progresses. CMT disease is a lifelong and currently incurable condition.
In individuals who have CMT disease, the nerves in extremities like the feet, lower legs, hands and forearms do not send proper signals to the brain, causing loss of sensation and muscle. CMT causes weakness, muscle loss, loss of sensation, numbness and pain, and changes the structure of the foot to have extremely high arches and curled toes, leading to awkward gait, tripping, and difficulty lifting the foot.
It is a progressive disorder; symptoms continue to worsen and complications increase as individuals with the condition age, and also with significant emotional or physical stress. Progressed stages can include other areas of the body, causing trouble breathing, speaking and eating, and causing hearing and vision loss. The condition usually first becomes apparent in teenagers and young adults. Initial symptoms tend to be foot abnormalities and difficulty walking. Specific symptoms, severity and progression all vary among different individuals.
CMT can be confirmed through testing. Genetic testing is the only way to be certain of the condition, although some types have not been identified in genetic makeup. Diagnosis is also made through taking a biopsy of a peripheral nerve and examining it for markers specific to CMT. Tests also help show the extent of damage from the condition. Nerve conduction tests show how quickly and strongly nerves and the brain exchange signals, while electromyography (EMG) tests look at the affected muscles.
There are a variety of ways to help manage CMT. Prescription drugs can help with pain caused by nerve damage. Physical and occupational therapy, orthopedic devices, stretching and exercising, and keeping good foot care can all help delay nerve damage and muscle loss and prevent injury.
You may be approved for Social Security disability if your disease severely limits you in your ability to work. In fact, the majority of claims are approved not by meeting the requirements of a listing but because of symptoms and limitations caused by the disease. Social Security will examine a claimant’s medical history and work history and may conclude that, based on functional limitations, age, education, and work skills, the claimant doesn’t possess the ability to return to their past work and can’t transition to less demanding work.