Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a neurological disorder that results in slowly progressive weakness and loss of feeling in the legs and arms. It is caused by the body’s immune system inappropriately reacting against and damaging myelin. Myelin surrounds the peripheral nerves and acts like an insulator so that the nerves can conduct impulses properly. It is closely related to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). However, GBS develops acutely (over hours-days) whereas CIDP usually develops slowing (over weeks-months).
CIDP can occur at any age and in both sexes, but is more common in men than women.
Symptoms include tingling, numbness or altered feeling which often begins in the feet and hands, weakness of the arms and legs, fatigue and aching pain in the muscles.
Treatment for CIDP is aimed at suppressing the immune system. First line treatment is usually with intravenous immunoglobulin. If this is not available, plasmapheresis (plasma exchange) or oral medications which suppress the immune system such as steroids may be used.
Physiotherapy may improve muscle strength, function and mobility, and minimize the development of contractures.
The course of CIDP varies widely among individuals. Some may have a bout of CIDP followed by spontaneous recovery, while others may have many bouts with partial recovery in between relapses. The disease is a treatable cause of acquired neuropathy and initiation of early treatment to prevent loss of nerve cells is recommended. However, some individuals are left with some residual numbness or weakness.
Further Information and Support
See also Guillain Barre Syndrome.
GBS/CIDP Foundation International
GBS Association of NSW
PO Box 572, Epping NSW 1710
Tel 0487 843 723
Reviewed by Dr Victor Fung, MB BS (Hons) PhD FRACP, Director, Movement Disorders Unit, Department of Neurology, Westmead Hospital, Westmead.
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