All Children's Hospital Logo

Health Information Library

Parents > A to Z > C > A to Z: Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
A to Z: Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

A to Z: Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

May also be called: CMT; Peroneal Muscular Atrophy; Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy; HMSN

Charcot (shar-KOE)-Marie-Tooth disease is the term for a group of inherited disorders that affect the nerves in the arms and legs.

More to Know

The nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and a network of smaller nerves that branch out from the spinal cord to the entire body. These nerves make up the peripheral nervous system.

In Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), peripheral nerves are damaged, causing interference with the signals being sent to and from the brain to the limbs. Over time, this can lead to muscle weakness, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, and other muscle- and bone-related conditions.

CMT is an inherited disorder, meaning it's passed down from parent to child through genes. Someone with CMT inherits a defect in the genes that produce protein used to make axons or myelin, which are both parts of nerves cells. Axons are like long, thin fibers that send electrical signals. Myelin is a substance that makes up the sheath that protects and nourishes the axons. The genetic defect affects the way the nerve functions and causes it to slowly degenerate, eventually making symptoms worse.

There is no cure for CMT and it can't be prevented. Treatment usually involves a combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, moderate exercise, leg braces, and shoe inserts. In some cases, surgery may be performed to correct foot or joint deformities.

Keep in Mind

Working with a doctor and therapists to keep muscles strong and limber can slow the progression of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and help lessen the severity of symptoms. The earlier treatment and therapy begin, the more effective they will be, so it's important to see a doctor about any symptoms of CMT as soon as they appear.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

Related Articles
P    All About Genetics
P    Brain and Nervous System
T    Brain and Nervous System
P    Genetic Testing
K    Going to an Occupational Therapist
P    Occupational Therapy
P    Physical Therapy
T    Physical Therapy
K    Problems With Legs and Feet
K    What Is a Gene?
K    Word! Genetics
K    Your Brain & Nervous System
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and

Additional Info

Pocket Doc Mobile App
Maps and Locations (Mobile)
Programs & Services
For Health Professionals
For Patients & Families
Contact Us
Find a Doctor

All Children's Hospital
501 6th Ave South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 898-7451
(800) 456-4543

Use Normal Template
© 2015 All Children's Hospital - All Rights Reserved