Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy

A patient talking to a doctor

What is CIDP?

Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is an incredibly rare neurodegenerative disorder. This disease is not to be confused with Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), although the two conditions do share some striking similarities.

Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy

This disease is chronic, and sufferers of the disease often experience symptoms increasing in severity over the course of several months.

Symptoms of CIDP

Everyone experiences diseases differently, and patients do not always report the exact same symptoms. Nevertheless, there are certain symptoms that can be indicative of CIDP.

Symmetric muscle weakness: This is the most common symptom of the disease. It normally develops in either the shoulders and hips, or the feet and hands. This does not happen overnight; instead, it tends to develop over time.

Fatigue: It is normal to feel very weak or tired if you suffer from CIDP. You may feel tired in a general sense (always feeling like you have no energy), or your limbs may be feeling a little weak. Your reflexes may be a little off as well. They can be reduced or disappear altogether.

Pain: Some patients report that they feel pain in their bodies. This can be felt in a number of ways, but most often, people experience a burning sensation.

Numbness: One of the earliest signs patients report experiencing is numbness or a tingling sensation. It can often be described as “pins and needles,” and my feel like your body is chronically “asleep.” These altered sensations can contribute to problems with your movement and dexterity.

Clumsiness: Having difficulty balancing is an expected issue when your sensory modalities and muscles are disturbed. You may notice that you have problems standing up properly, or trip more easily or more often than normal.

Difficultly swallowing: In some cases, patients have issues swallowing normally. Their throats don’t necessarily feel closed, but the action of swallowing becomes more difficult.

Double vision: Vision impairment can be a symptom that begins to manifest in a number of patients.

What causes CIDP?

On a molecular level, the nerve cells themselves are being attacked. Your body communicates with itself through nerve cells. These nerve cells send signals down these little connectors call axons.

In order to preserve the signals as they are being sent down, these axons are not “naked.” Think of it kind of like a wire. Bare wires are insulated to protect the wire and optimize the amount of electricity that is transferred through. Neurons work the same way. Instead, they are covered with a fatty tissue called a myelin sheath. In CIDP, this fatty, protective covering is damaged by swollen nerve roots.

No one is really sure about the exact mechanism that triggers CIDP. This doesn’t mean that this disorder just appears out of thin air. There are some theories that seek to unearth what is behind these nerve problems.
Many experts believe it is an autoimmune disorder. This means that they believe CIDP may be triggered when immune cells begin to attack healthy cells.

Can You Cure CIDP?

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for CIDP. Like many other neurodegenerative disorders, you can’t simply take a pill a couple of times to cure your symptoms.
However, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do.

Treatments for CIDP

There are a few treatments that are available for those suffering from CIDP. These can include taking medications such as glucocorticoids, which may even be used in combination with immunosuppressants.

In some cases, when drugs are ineffective, intravenous immunoglobin (IVIG) may be used. Some may even benefit from plasma exchange treatments. There are many other treatment options being explored which aim to optimize patient experiences.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect treatment. It is important that you discuss your options with your doctor so that you can get the best option for you.

Getting a Diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis for CIDP requires a visit to your doctor. Due to the rarity of CIDP, a physician will try to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. These investigations will include extensive medical history examination as well as a thorough physical. As the diagnosis is rather difficult and CIDP shares many symptoms with other neurodegenerative conditions, this may take some time.

If CIDP is determined to be a likely culprit, further tests will be issued.
The chief tests use to diagnose CIDP concretely involve nerve conduction and electromyography (EMG) studies. In some cases, a doctor will order more tests to ensure that they have the correct diagnosis. These tests may include more invasive procedures, including cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) examinations, and even nerve biopsies.