Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) refers to a group of disorders that affect the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nerves carry signals from the brain to the muscles to move and sensory information from the rest of the body to the brain. CMT causes nerve fibers or their protective coat around them to degrade. This results in progressive muscle weakness and decreased sensation in hands and feet. Caring for the hands and feet can help alleviate some symptoms of the disease and prevent complications.

Hand care

Pain, muscle weakness, and fine motor problems in the hands are common and get progressively worse in people with CMT.

Patients are encouraged to work with physical therapists and occupational therapists to ensure that they are doing the appropriate exercises to minimize muscle loss in the hands. At the same time, patients must be careful not to damage their hands during workouts or daily tasks. Therapists can suggest ways of doing chores or exercises to minimize the risk of damage.

Occupational therapists can also suggest adaptive devices to minimize the risk of injury in day-to-day tasks.

Foot care

Wearing appropriate shoes is very important for people with CMT. This can be difficult because patients often have very high arches and may have hammertoes (curled toes). Shoes may need to be custom made. CMT patients should avoid wearing open-toed shoes or high heels, as these types of shoes can increase the risk of injury.

It may be necessary for CMT patients with diminished feeling in their feet to see a podiatrist for help trimming nails or removing calluses so that they do not inadvertently injure themselves.

Tips for good foot care include:

  • Being careful when walking barefoot
  • Inspecting feet daily and watching for injuries or rub marks
  • Inspecting socks daily for stains or blood
  • Being careful when soaking feet; many foot soaks can be very drying
  • Making sure to dry between the toes; moisture in these areas can allow athlete’s foot to grow.
  • Using an oil or moisturizer for calluses or dry areas
  • Seeing a podiatrist in cases of peeling or loose skin; this may be an indication of more severe problems.
  • Changing socks at least once a day, and avoiding cotton or nylon, which may retain moisture. Wicking fabrics that provide cushioning are best.
  • Keeping toenails trimmed
  • Not using commercial corn or wart removers

Injuries

Because CMT leads to decreased sensation, particularly in the hands and feet, people have an increased risk of unknowingly injuring themselves. For example, if a blister develops on the foot, a person with CMT may not notice a sore developing. The sore may worsen or even become infected if it does not cause noticeable pain.

CMT patients should also be careful in extreme temperatures — especially cold, as they may not feel that their feet are cold until damage such as chilblains or frostbite has already occurred.

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Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.