Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a neurological disorder -- a condition that targets your body’s nerves.
Symptoms aren’t the same for everyone, but you may be tired and have areas of numbness and pain. It can slow your reflexes and make your arms and legs feel weak. You have to have symptoms for at least 8 weeks for CIDP to be considered the cause.
Most people need treatment. And the sooner you begin it, the better the chance of a complete recovery. Sometimes symptoms go away for a long time but come back later.
Anyone can get CIDP, but it’s most common in older adults, and more in men than women. As many as 40,000 people in the U.S. may have the condition, but it’s hard to know how many people have it. CIDP isn’t easy to diagnose.
What causes it?
Experts aren’t sure why people get the disorder. What they do know is that it’s caused by inflammation of nerves and nerve roots. The swelling can destroy the protective covering around nerves, known as myelin. That can hurt nerve fibers and slow the nerves’ ability to send signals. This is what causes the weakness, pain, fatigue, and numbness.
Is it the same as Guillain-Barre syndrome?
No. CIDP is closely related to Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). Both are nerve problems, and both cause symptoms such as weakness and numbness. But GBS usually comes on days or weeks after a person has an illness, such as a stomach bug. CIDP isn’t linked to illness. With GBS, once treated, most people recover fairly quickly. CIDP, on the other hand, tends to be a longer-term problem. In rare cases, people who don’t recover from GBS may develop CIDP.
How is it diagnosed?
There’s no test to diagnosis CIDP. Instead, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, such as when they started and how they feel. They’ll do a thorough physical examination and may also recommend tests to get a better idea of what’s going on with your nerves, and to rule out other possible causes.
In some cases, doctors can’t be completely sure it’s CIDP, but they may go ahead and start treatment. If the symptoms improve, that’s strong evidence it’s CIDP.
What do you do to feel better?
Early treatment is key. It can help prevent nerve damage. That can help stop symptoms from becoming severe.
Treatment may include:
- Corticosteroids. These medications bring down inflammation and slow the immune system.
- Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). Your doctor may give you injections of concentrated antibodies from healthy people to slow your body’s immune response.
- Plasma exchange (PE). This treatment involves receiving a part of blood called plasma through an IV to slow down your immune system.
- Immunotherapy. These drugs interrupt your immune system to help stop it from attacking the myelin.
- Stem cell transplant. In rare cases, your doctor may inject healthy stem cells (either yours or donated by someone else) to "reset" your immune system.
Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy. Moderate exercise may give you more energy.
You may find your symptoms are manageable sometimes and hard to deal with at other times. If over-the-counter painkillers aren’t enough to treat your pain from CIDP, your doctor may prescribe other medications.
You may recover entirely from CIDP. Some people do, but they may have symptoms from nerve damage, such as numbness and weakness, for the rest of their lives.