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Does Charcot Marie Tooth Affect Breathing & Does It Affect Hands?

Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) belongs to a group of neurological disorders that severely impacts the peripheral nervous system. It affects the nerves supplying the feet, legs, hands, and arms. CMT often caused due to inheritance and results in the abnormalities of the nerves particularly the motor nerves and sensory which are primarily responsible for carrying sensations (heat, cold and pain) to the brain.

The symptoms of Charcot Marie Tooth vary widely and it differs from individual to individual. The signs typically start with your feet and lungs and slowly progress towards the other parts of the body. Over a period of time, it severely affects your arms and hands, as well. They are most commonly noticed in teens and young adults.

Does Charcot Marie Tooth Affect Breathing?

Although Charcot Marie Tooth is a rare disorder however when it affects the respiratory organs it has the potential to turn fatal. There are incidences in which the patients died due to CMT. Basically, breathing requires the coordination of several muscles to function appropriately. However, when there is damage caused to these muscles (diaphragm, abdominal muscles, and intercostal muscles) it results in weakness, atrophy, and respiratory insufficiency. The symptoms are subtle so the doctor cannot identify the exact reason causing this condition.

Nevertheless, there are cases in which the patients reported phrenic nerve impairment (diaphragm paralysis which disrupts the patient from being able to regulate breathing on his or her own). This eventually results in several complications such as generalized weakness, exercise intolerance, sleep hypercapnia, weak cough, and postural discomfort.1,2

How Charcot Marie Tooth Affects Breathing?

Hypercapnia – This is a condition when you have increased levels of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. It is often caused by hypoventilation or irregular breathing where not enough oxygen enters the lungs and not enough carbon dioxide is emitted. This triggers pulmonary vascular resistance majorly through the coexisting acidosis. This, in turn, affects one of the assessable symptoms of a venous air embolism

Weak Cough- This condition often occurs when there is an irritation or inflammation in your respiratory tract. Although this is not a common symptom of Charcot Marie Tooth, yet you need to discuss with your general practitioners or CMT expert neurologist to avoid further complications.3

Does Charcot Marie Tooth Affect Hands?

Hand Weakness is a common symptom of Charcot Marie tooth disease. Muscle weakness due to excessive or repetitive muscle use also referred to as hand weakness due to CMT condition leads to poor finger control, the difference in hand strength, and difficulties in performing normal routines. , is one of the most common symptoms and affects all individuals irrespective of age. Patients with Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease (CMT) were vulnerable to excess work weakness in comparison to the force of right to left-hand muscles. One of the major difficulties with this condition is, it cannot be diagnosed in its early stages thus causing a potential delay in beginning the therapy.

Nevertheless, there are ways to improve the hand functions through specific rehabilitation protocols. According to medical studies, there is proven evidence that this methodology is well-tolerated by patients with Charcot Marie Tooth.

When there is a dysfunction in the hands causing an inability to move the thumb away from the hand, it immensely influences the individual’s quality of life. You could have often seen this in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and epidermolysis bullosa. The hand rehabilitation of Charcot Marie Tooth is a four-week protocol primarily intended to avoid hand overuse.

The strategy was tested in nine Charcot Marie Tooth patients in the mean age of over 50 using an instrument called dynamometer. The results showed improved performance in tripod pinch strength and the handgrip. Most patients were feeling better and expressed satisfaction after the rehab treatment.4,5


  1. How Charcot Marie Tooth affects breathing https://charcot-marie-toothnews.com/charcot-marie-tooth-and-the-lungs/
  2. Breathing problems- what do they mean https://www.hnf-cure.org/living-with-cmt/breathing-problems/
  3. Lung functions and breathing issues due to Charcot Marie Tooth https://www.hnf-cure.org/uncategorized/lungfunction/
  4. Improving hand function through rehab protocol https://charcot-marie-toothnews.com/2018/08/01/cmt-patients-specific-rehabilitation-protocol-improves-hand-function/
  5. Hand Weakness in Charcot Marie Tooth disease https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3657175/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 14, 2020

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