By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
diagnosis of any disease is scary. When a loved one finds out
itís hereditary, the unknown becomes even more concerning.
Neuropathy is a disease of one or more nerves that leads to
weakness and wasting of muscles. Most often, this affects
muscles below the knees and in hands. Hereditary neuropathy is
passed from parents to children. For some types, the genetic
defect is definable and can be addressed early on.
A neuropathy can be sensory, motor or autonomic. A person
feels through the sensory nerves and the motor nerves are
responsible for movement. Autonomic nerves are responsible
for functions a body naturally does, like breathing and heart
rate. The symptoms a loved one may experience if suffering from
hereditary neuropathy depends on which nerves are being
Hereditary neuropathy affects the peripheral nervous system
and is divided into four categories: hereditary motor and
sensory neuropathy, hereditary sensory neuropathy, hereditary
motor neuropathy, and hereditary sensory and autonomic
The most common type of hereditary neuropathy is
Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, or CMT. This actually encompasses
several neuropathies. CMT is also known as hereditary motor and
sensory neuropathy (HMSN) since it affects both motor and
sensory nerve function. A parent with CMT has a 50 percent
chance of passing it to his or her child.
A diagnosis of CMT is usually classified as Type 1 or Type 2,
depending on which part of the peripheral nerve is compromised.
Most people with CMT suffer from Type 1, which affects the
covering of the nerve and a third of the group has Type 2, which
affects the nerve fibers. The most severe form of CMT, Type 3,
is also known as Dejerine-Sottas disease. This is when the
nerves are thickened, leading to muscle weakness.
Mayo Clinic says that 1 in 2,500 people are affected with
some form of CMT, which is caused by gene mutation affecting
brain-nerve-muscle communication. It is a slow progressing
disease that first appears in teenagers and young to middle-aged
Common symptoms include weakness or pain in the feet or lower
legs and later in hands, a foot drop (inability to lift a foot
when stepping), high foot arches and decreased calf muscle
strength. A person may experience frequent falls due to a
clumsy, awkward step.
Life expectancy does not decrease with most forms of CMT.