CIDP, or chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, is a neurological disorder caused by damage to the myelin sheaths that protect the nerves of the arms and legs. While anyone can suffer from the disease, it is most common in young men. Causes for CIDP are poorly understood. While it is treatable and in some cases goes into complete remission, no consistently effective cure for the disorder has been discovered.
Symptoms of CIDP
CIDP is a close cousin of Guillain-Barre syndrome and is essentially the chronic equivalent of Guillain-Barre's more acute attacks. It is believed to be the result of an immune response gone wrong. For reasons that are not fully known, the body begins to attack the myelin sheaths' fatty surfaces, degrading them and gradually exposing the underlying nerves. Without their myelin coating, the nerves begin to malfunction, causing symptoms that begin with tingling in the fingers or toes and extend to weakness in the legs and arms. Additional symptoms include fatigue, strange random sensations and loss of deep tendon reflexes. A classic sign of deepening CIDP is increasing difficulty in walking. If you experience this or any combination of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.
CIDP is initially diagnosed through physical examination and reflex tests administered by your doctor. If problems are indicated, she will refer you to a neurologist who will do further testing. A neurologist will generally administer a nerve conduction test to determine the extent of damage. She may also perform a spinal tap, as well as blood and urine tests.
If you have CIDP, you have several treatment options. Prednisone, a corticosteroid, is frequently used as an initial treatment. It mimics the body's natural anti-inflammatories and can provide a needed boost in muscle strength. Like all corticosteroids, it has potentially harmful side effects and is generally not suitable for long-term use. Another option is treatment with immune globulins. These protective proteins are gathered from donated blood and taken intravenously in high doses. Plasmapherisis, or plasma exchange, is a third option. It involves filtering liquid plasma from your blood and returning the cleansed blood to your body. Although reasons for this method's effectiveness are only partially known, it is believed the process may remove harmful antibodies contained in the plasma.
A Word on Varying Results
Successful treatment of CIDP is still something of a mystery. Some sufferers experience a single bout of the syndrome then go into permanent spontaneous remission. Still others experience temporary remissions then later experience further attacks. Similarly, treatments that are effective in one case may be inadequate in another. Or treatments in one individual may suddenly lose effectiveness, with the need to switch to an alternative approach. The ups and downs of the syndrome may be wearying, especially if you are a long-term sufferer. Dealing successfully with the possible bumps in the road will require patience, tenacity and a good ongoing relationship with your health care professional.