CIDP 101: What You Need to Know About this Rare Disease
Imagine pins and needle sensations searing throughout your limbs or paralyzing numbness that prevents you from lifting your extremities. You might expect it to fade over time with movement and increased blood circulation to the affected areas, but what happens when days and weeks pass and the numbing, tingling sensations do not let up?
When these symptoms persist for more than eight weeks, it could be chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). This rare neurological disorder affects the nervous system causing numbness, pain, slow reflexes and weakness in the limbs. Untreated, it can affect motor function in the arms and legs and some cases, cause severe nerve damage.
What causes CIDP?
CIDP is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when swelling caused by inflamed nerve roots and peripheral nerves begin to destroy the myelin sheath (the protective covering around nerves). As a result, nerve fibers become damaged, and the body’s ability to send signals to the brain slows significantly. What triggers CIDP is currently unknown, it is more commonly found in people age 50 or more and men are twice as likely to develop this rare disease.
What are the symptoms of CIDP?
Common symptoms of CIDP include numbness, tingling and pain in the extremities. Symptoms may consist of a pins and needles feeling, burning or stabbing pain, or a lack of sensation. Another common symptom is physical weakness and fatigue. People diagnosed with CIDP may experience difficulty walking or climbing stairs, lifting objects above their head, or doing simple activities like buttoning clothing or writing. They may also have trouble maintaining balance and may be prone to falls as a result of the previously listed symptoms. However, it’s important to distinguish that these symptoms are not isolated instances, but chronic conditions that worsen over time and are experienced for eight weeks or longer.
CIDP vs. GBS
Guillen-Barre syndrome (GBS) attacks the myelin sheath in a way similar to CIDP. The two share many symptoms; however, GBS symptoms develop much quicker and can also affect breathing which can cause respiratory arrest. CIDP, on the other hand, is a chronic condition that develops worsening symptoms over an extended period.
If you are concerned that you may have CIDP, schedule a doctor visit right away and request to be tested. Since CIDP is rare and difficult to diagnose, you may want to document your symptoms and how they progress over time to provide your doctor with the information they may need to assess your situation accurately. The sooner you seek help, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible nerve damage.