What is Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)?
Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a rare autoimmune disorder in which a person’s own immune system mounts an inflammatory response and causes damage to his or her peripheral nerves. This can affect the sensory, motor and autonomic nerves.
CIDP causes damage to the fatty protective covering wrapped around peripheral nerve fibers, known as the myelin sheath. As a result of demyelination, people suffering from CIDP experience progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in their extremities. Although CIDP has been known to affect people independent of age or gender, it is believed to be more common in young adults, and affects men more often than women.
What are the causes of CIDP?
While the exact cause of CIDP is not definitively known, cases of CIDP have been documented in connection with vaccination. Autoimmune disorders can be influenced by genetic components and environmental factors, occurring when the body’s natural defenses suddenly begin to attack its own healthy tissue.
Common Symptoms of CIDP
Symptoms of CIDP often come on gradually and can include tingling or numbness often beginning in the hands and feet, weakness of the arms and legs, loss of reflexes, and fatigue. As a result, patients may experience sensory changes in their extremities, uncoordinated movement, problems breathing, slurred speech, difficulty walking, and trouble using their arms or legs.
Diagnosis and Treatment of CIDP
Diagnosis of CIDP is a multi-stage process that includes first ruling out other potential illnesses. Physicians form a diagnosis based on patient history, clinical examination, and supporting laboratory investigation. In making a diagnosis of CIDP, medical professionals may order an electromyography with nerve condition studies, blood tests, and an analysis of spinal fluid. A diagnosis of CIDP can be made once active symptoms have been ongoing for at least eight weeks.
CIDP patients can be treated with intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG), plasmapheresis (PE) or steroid treatment. Physiotherapy has also been known to improve muscle strength, function, and mobility, while minimizing distortions of the joints and shrinkage of muscles and tendons.
Variants of CIDP
CIDP is similar to Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which also affects the peripheral nerves. However, GBS typically involves an acute onset of symptoms and is monophasic in nature. Many consider CIDP to be the chronic counterpart of GBS. Differential diagnoses can also include Multifocal Motor Neuropathy, Lewis-Sumner syndrome, and other symmetrical motor and sensory progressive neuropathy.
Living with CIDP
Many patients suffering from Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy can have a long recovery, often experiencing recurrence and progression of symptoms. Some experience permanent residual symptoms, including sensory disturbances in the extremities, nerve and muscle pain, weakness and extreme fatigue.
The chronic nature of CIDP often requires long-term care of patients, who benefit most from treatment options presented early in diagnosis. Patients who experience the gradual onset of CIDP may find diagnosis delayed, limiting the response to therapy.