20th October 2022
Is Neuropathy Hereditary?Dr. Devan Patel, PharmD
Neuropathy is caused by damage to peripheral nerve cells that affect the nervous system. Nerve cells are the transmitters between your brain and spinal cord that signal your body to perform certain movements or feel different sensations.
When nerve cells experience damage, the transmission between your brain and spinal cord is disrupted. The result is often symptoms of neuropathy that include pain, numbness, loss of sensation, and muscle weakness.
Neuropathy can be caused by traumatic injuries as well as health factors such as poor diet (a diet lacking in certain vitamins) and diabetes. There are many different causes and risk factors for developing neuropathy. However, sometimes there is no cause at all.
Hereditary neuropathy is a condition that is passed down through genetics. Your risk factors for hereditary neuropathy include having a family member, especially a parent, with hereditary neuropathy.
While most forms of neuropathy, like diabetic peripheral neuropathy, are not hereditary, other forms of neuropathy can be passed down through your genetics. We will discuss more about hereditary forms of neuropathy below.
What Are the Symptoms of Hereditary Neuropathies?
Both hereditary and non-hereditary neuropathy have similar symptoms. Like with non-hereditary neuropathies, hereditary neuropathy symptoms vary depending on the type of nerve cells affected. With hereditary neuropathy, autonomic, sensory, and motor nerve cells may all be affected. Sometimes more than one group of nerve cells may be affected.
Symptoms of hereditary neuropathy may include:
Sharp pain, numbness, or tingling sensation, most often in your hands and feet.
Muscle weakness and muscle atrophy, usually in the legs and feet
Sweating too much or too little, or low blood pressure after standing up from a seated or lying position
Physical deformities such as scoliosis, hammer-shaped toes, or high foot arches.
Hereditary neuropathy can be difficult to diagnose at first as there are typically no signs in early childhood. They often appear later in adulthood or are sometimes so mild that they go undiagnosed for years.
What Are the Types of Hereditary Neuropathy?
There are numerous types of hereditary neuropathies but the most common are Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies (HNPP). Below is a description of each hereditary neuropathy and their symptoms.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT)
CMT is a group of hereditary neuropathies that affects the sensory and motor nerves. It’s reported that about 1 out of 3,300 people has CMT. At least 4 genes may be responsible for passing the CMT down to their offspring. Having a parent with CMT makes you 50 percent more likely to inherit the disease.
Symptoms of CMT can include many of the symptoms listed above as well as poor hand coordination, unsteady balance or gait, and a difficulty in keeping your foot horizontal or lifting it up.
Hereditary Neuropathy with Liability to Pressure Palsies (HNPP)
HNPP is estimated to affect 2-5 out of every 100, 000 people. Like with CMT, people with a parent who have HNPP have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease. Those affected by HNPP have an extreme sensitivity to pressure.
Simple acts such as carrying a bag over their shoulder, sitting in a chair, or leaning their chin on their hand can cause neuropathy episodes of tingling, numbness, and loss of sensation in those areas that received pressure.
HNPP neuropathy episodes may happen frequently and can last up to several months. Repeated episodes over time may lead to permanent nerve damage, causing sufferers chronic pain.
How Are Hereditary Neuropathies Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of hereditary neuropathy, or believe you may have hereditary neuropathy, you should talk to your doctor. You may be required to make an appointment with a specialist, or a neurologist, who specializes in nervous system disorders. They will be able to perform certain tests to determine whether you have hereditary neuropathy.
Some hereditary neuropathy tests may include:
Genetic testing to identify genetic abnormalities that cause hereditary neuropathies
Nerve conduction tests can be used to determine whether you have neuropathy, but not what type of neuropathy you have. They use electromyography to test how well your nerve cells carry an electrical signal.
Biopsies to check for nerve damage
Neurological evaluations to assess your ability to feel sensations, and test your coordination, motor skills, and reflexes.
Hereditary neuropathies can be diagnosed at any age.
Is There a Cure for Hereditary Neuropathy?
Currently there is no cure for hereditary neuropathy or any other type of neuropathy. Treatment for hereditary neuropathy is aimed at managing symptoms rather than fixing the root of the problem. Treatment for hereditary neuropathy may include:
- Medication. Your doctor may prescribe you pain medications to help ease painful symptoms of your neuropathy. These medications may help to reduce pain and inflammation associated with nerve damage.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy may help to promote blood flow to the damaged nerves and preserve muscle mass from atrophy.
- Surgery. In severe cases of neuropathy, surgery may be advised for correcting damage caused by neuropathy.
- Therapeutics. Therapeutics like leg braces, comfortable shoes, or heel inserts may help to relieve pressure on areas affected by neuropathy pain, like your feet.
Can You Prevent Hereditary Neuropathy?
The only way to prevent hereditary neuropathy is to not have a parent with the disease. However, there are certain lifestyle factors that can worsen symptoms of neuropathy or cause non-hereditary neuropathies. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime puts you less at risk for nerve damage.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common risk factor for nerve damage, and it is not considered a hereditary neuropathy. Lack of exercise and a poor diet puts you more at risk for diabetes and obesity, thus putting you more at risk for developing neuropathy. By maintaining a healthy weight and normal blood sugar levels, you reduce your risk of nerve damage.
A healthy diet is also key to ensuring you are getting adequate levels of essential nutrients. Vitamin deficiency, specifically vitamin B-12 deficiency, is another risk factor for neuropathy. A multi-nutrient supplement like NeuraZenx can help you get the necessary nutrients you need for optimal nerve health.* NeuraZenx is an all-natural supplement formulated specifically for treating symptoms of neuropathy and restoring optimal nerve health.*
Is Neuropathy Hereditary: The Bottom Line
Hereditary neuropathy is a genetic condition most often passed from parent to child, although most forms of neuropathy are not considered hereditary. The symptoms of hereditary neuropathy are similar to other forms of neuropathy. Like these other forms, there is no known cure yet for hereditary neuropathy, only treatment. A healthy lifestyle and dietary supplements may help to reduce your symptoms of neuropathy but may not reduce your risk of developing hereditary neuropathy.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.