How to Treat CIDP and What to Expect
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) isn’t just a complicated medical term; it’s a rare disease that can cause sensory loss and severely impact mobility. CIDP occurs when an autoimmune response causes the body to attack the myelin, the protective covering of the peripheral nerves. Nerve damage ensues followed by symptoms including weakness in the limbs, a loss of sensation and reflexes, and eventually paralysis if untreated. Although there is no cure for CIDP, early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent irreversible nerve damage.
Difficulty in diagnosing CIDP
CIDP is extremely rare with approximately 5-7 out of every 100,000 people diagnosed with the disease, according to RareDiseases.org. CIDP is often confused with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) because of the similarity of symptoms. Both are autoimmune diseases that affect the myelin; however, a significant difference is that GBS symptoms progress rapidly while CIDP symptoms take longer to manifest. Since CIDP is a chronic disease, it is not diagnosed until symptoms persist and worsen over a period of eight weeks or longer.
Treatment options for CIDP patients
Since CIDP is a type of autoimmune disease, the prescribed treatments often work to suppress the immune response that is causing the attack of the myelin. This can include corticosteroids to suppress the immune system, intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) to infuse antibodies into the blood, and plasmapheresis to remove harmful antibodies. Doctors may also recommend physical therapy to help improve mobility. Treatment can help increase physical strength, balance, and coordination to provide an improved quality of life.
The life expectancy of CIDP patients
Although CIDP is not fatal, and the life expectancy of a patient is comparable to someone who does not have the disease, a patient’s quality of life can be significantly impacted. The longer the disease goes untreated, the nerve damage can permanently limit sensory and motor functions. If severe nerve damage sets in, patients may require assistance with daily living activities due to a lack of mobility.
If you are experiencing unexplainable numbness or a loss of reflexes in your limbs for a prolonged time, you may want to discuss the possibility of CIDP with your doctor. The sooner you can identify the disease and begin treatment, the higher the chance you can reverse symptoms and prevent further damage to your nerves.