Inherited Neuropathies

Neuropathy is damage to the nerves. Neuropathies come in various forms, some as the result of one’s environment (exposure to toxins, physical injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome) some as a complication from another illness or condition (diabetes is one common cause), and some without any known cause. Inherited neuropathy is, of course, the result of genetics, and is not as common as those types mentioned above.

Inherited neuropathies most often affect the peripheral nervous system, which is separate from the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Peripheral nerves allow us to feel sensations such as touch and temperature, stimulate muscle movement, and control autonomic, or unconscious, functions such as heartbeat. Depending on the type of neuropathy, any of these nerves may be affected.

Experiences with hereditary neuropathies can vary widely: for some people, they may present from birth or early childhood, while for others, the symptoms and their effects may appear later in life, sometimes setting in well into adulthood; symptoms can range from mild and unobtrusive to severe and debilitating. They can also affect different family members in different ways, both in terms of severity and in onset.

Familial experiences may make it pretty clear that someone has inherited a nerve disorder, but in any case, inherited neuropathies may be diagnosed with genetic blood tests, nerve biopsies, or nerve conduction tests.

There is no standard treatment for inherited neuropathy: treatment depends on a number of factors, from the type of nerves that are damaged, to the areas of the body affected, to the severity of the symptoms, as well as the age of the patient. Various medications may be prescribed, to manage symptoms or alleviate pain, or physical therapy could be advised. With disorders that cause physical deformity, such as to the feet or spine, orthopedic surgery may be necessary


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