What is Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis & How is it Treated?

Amongst the many immune system disorders, the chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is one of the most significant one. Chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is an acquired inflammatory disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system. As a consequence of chronic inflammatory polyneuritis, the reflexes get affected with a significant decrease in the reflex action and there is a weakness of the sensory system. Though chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is a very complex condition, it is a very rare disorder.

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

What is Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis?

Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis is an inflammation of the peripheral nervous system. In this condition, the myelin or the insulation around the axons or nerve fibres is affected. As a consequence, the myelin undergoes a loss. This results in motor, sensory and autonomic nervous system damages. Chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is a chronic disorder and it is closely associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), which is an acute disorder condition of the same type.

Prevalence Rate of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis is a very rare disorder. About only 5 to 7 cases in every 100,000 people is found to have been reported. However, what needs to be kept in mind is that Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis may affect any person or any age group and that too at any stage of his or her life. Even children are not spared from acquiring Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis. However, what is significant is that the men have twice the chances of acquiring chronic inflammatory polyneuritis than women.

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

Since Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis is associated with inflammation of the nerves and the nervous system, the symptoms are mostly motor, sensory and autonomic functions. These include –

  • Decreased sensation or numbness in feet, arms and hands
  • Decreased sensation of burns, pains or other abnormal feelings
  • Fatigue
  • Speech impairment
  • Decreased or no feelings in muscles
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Double vision
  • Lack of coordination in movement or abnormal movement
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Muscle atrophy, contraction and loss of function
  • Weakness in feet or trouble in feeling or sensation in feet, hence difficulty in walking.

It must be kept in mind that the symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis are slow but progressive. Weakness of the muscles will be experienced in the feet, hands, shoulder and hips. Both the distal and proximal muscles will undergo symmetric weakness. The nerve signals go altered and a prickling or tingling sensation may be experienced.

Causes of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

As already mentioned, Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis is a peripheral neuropathy or damage to the nerves around the spinal cord and brain. In Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis, both sides of the body get affected by the impacts of the damaged nerves. It is commonly caused by an abnormal immune response that affects the myelin cover of the nerves.

There are various possible causes as well as triggers that lead to Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis. However, in some cases, no specific or single particular cause can be made responsible or identified for Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis. In most cases, chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is associated with other diseases and conditions and these include –

Prognosis of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

The way in which chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is going to affect you in future, its treatment success as well as its relapse possibilities cannot be specified and they largely vary from person to person. However, in most cases of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis, recovery is fast and significant, upon early diagnosis. Unfortunately, disturbing periods of relapse can also be identified.

As the Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis is diagnosed at an early stage, preventive treatment is provided to make sure that the axons of the nerves can be prevented from loss. However, despite the prevention of the axons from damage, weakness, numbness, fatigue and tremors are often found to persist for long, deteriorating the quality of life.

Diagnosis of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

Early diagnosis of chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is very crucial. This can prevent the nerve axons from being damaged and thereby, limit or reduce the signs and symptoms associated with decreased sensation or feelings. For this, the doctor will take a complete medical history of the patient at first. This will include a thorough physical examination in which the doctor will pay attention to or take notice of a few factors in particular. These would include –

  • If there are any reflexes or not
  • If the muscle mass is lost
  • If there are sensation troubles on both sides of the body
  • Bilateral paralysis
  • Weakness of muscle.

If these are found to be positive, the doctor will proceed towards giving some diagnostic tests to the patient or sufferer. These tests include –

  • EMG or Electromyography
  • Biopsy of the nerves
  • Nerve conduction tests
  • Blood tests to check for specific proteins that attack the immune system nerves
  • Spinal tap.

Depending on the condition, the doctor might also ask you to do imaging scans, X-rays and other blood tests.

Treatment for Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis is mainly focussed on restoring the damaged nerves and to heal them; thereby reduce the signs and symptoms associated with numbness and weakness, as well as paralysis. However, there can be situations in which the damage of the nerves is beyond recovery or restoration. In those cases, the doctor aims at providing a treatment that would prevent Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis from worsening further.

The Treatment Methods for Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis Include –

  • Corticosteroids for Treating Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis: These are quite similar to the hormones that the body naturally produces. These corticosteroids are given to the patient to provide strength, reduce the inflammation as well as relieve the patient from pain. The easiest part of this treatment is that these corticosteroids can be taken orally.
  • Intravenous Immune Globulins (IVIG) to Treat Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis: The Intravenous Immune Globulins (IVIG) are naturally occurring antibodies and the only medicine that the FDA and the medical boards of most countries approve of. These are given through veins in high dosage. The IVIG can enter the blood plasma and thereby reduce the impact of the problem causing antibodies.
  • Plasmapheresis (PLEX) or Plasma Exchange (PE) as a Treatment for Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis: Through this process, the harmful antibodies that have caused this condition are removed from the blood. For that a small portion of blood is removed from the patient’s body and is returned only after removing the plasma portion of the blood. This is because the plasma portion of the blood contains the harmful antibodies.

If all these treatment methods for Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis fail, the doctor might recommend chemotherapy in extreme cases or situations. At times, third-line medicines are also prescribed, but these are only trial based treatment methods in which the focus is on suppressing the immune system disorders. However, these are largely avoided as they have significant side effects.

Complications Associated with Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis

If chronic inflammatory polyneuritis is left untreated or if diagnosis is delayed, there are some complications that may arise and these can be serious. These include –

  • Paralysis or permanent weakness in some body parts
  • Permanent loss of feelings or sensation or decrease of sensation in certain body parts
  • Pain
  • Medicinal side effects may also occur upon extensive treatment.

Hence, if you are experiencing loss of feeling or sensation in your body, it is a must that you see a doctor at once. Early diagnosis may cure Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuritis completely.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 10, 2018

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