Take a deeper dive into why CIDP symptoms occur
CIDP (chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy) is a rare autoimmune condition that affects people differently, causing weakness and numbness in the arms and legs. Autoimmune conditions happen when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells and tissues.
For some, CIDP continuously worsens over time, while others have symptoms that stabilize and relapse, or some experience a CIDP episode that lasts 1-3 years and does not return.
There are different types of CIDP, each with varying symptoms, all related to changes in the arms and legs. These types include:
- Typical CIDP: symmetrical muscle weakness and sensory loss, affecting both the arms and legs
- Distal CIDP: muscle weakness and sensory loss primarily in the legs
- Multifocal CIDP: muscle weakness and sensory loss asymmetrically affecting primarily the arms
- Focal CIDP: muscle weakness and sensory loss in only one limb
- Motor CIDP: muscle weakness without sensory symptoms
- Sensory CIDP: sensory loss without motor symptoms
Nerve cells without CIDP
In the nervous system, nerve cells (neurons) are responsible for sending messages to and from the brain using electrical currents. Healthy neurons in the nervous system are coated with a fat and protein called myelin. Myelin acts as an insulator to keep the electrical currents inside the neuron, so the messages can travel quickly to and from the brain.
Nerve cells with CIDP
With CIDP, the myelin is damaged over time. This means the messages sent to and from the brain can get lost along the way or take longer to reach their destination, which is why people living with CIDP generally experience weakness and loss of feeling in their arms and legs.
How myelin is damaged in people with CIDP
Although the cause of CIDP is not fully understood, some studies have shown that with CIDP, the body accidentally creates harmful antibodies, known as harmful IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies. These antibodies attack the myelin coating and break it down on the neurons, in the peripheral nervous system—the part of the nervous system responsible for messages from your brain and spinal cord to your organs, arms, and legs. CIDP symptoms occur because the communication to and from the brain is lost or slowed.
In someone without CIDP, IgG antibodies do not attack myelin. Instead, they play a role in protecting the immune system, which in turn, help protect the body from disease.
Possible symptoms of CIDP include:
- Tingling or sensory loss in the arms and legs
- Weakness of arms and legs
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty walking
- Burning pain
- Difficulty lifting objects
When it comes to having CIDP, knowledge really is power. Here are a few medical terms that people living with CIDP or supporting someone with CIDP may find helpful.
- Autoimmune condition: the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells and tissues
- Relapse: the return or worsening of symptoms that follow a period of improvement
- Peripheral nervous system: a system of nerves that delivers messages from your brain and spinal cord to your organs, arms, and legs
- Neuron: a nerve cell
- Myelin: the protective layer that surrounds the neuron and that acts as an insulator to keep the electrical messages within the neuron
- Harmful IgG antibody: a harmful antibody that mistakenly attacks the myelin in the peripheral nervous system of people with CIDP