Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy?

Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD) is a condition that arises when the myelin sheaths around nerve cells are damaged. Myelin, the insulating layer of tissue that surrounds nerve cells, helps ensure that signals from the brain are rapidly transmitted to the proper places in the body. When myelin is damaged or destroyed, it can lead to problems with communication between the brain and the body. In CIPD, this manifests as muscle weakness and impaired motor control.

In CIPD the nerves are chronically swollen and irritated. This inflammation damages peripheral nerves, but not the brain or spinal cord. While CIPD is sometimes associated with inflammatory or autoimmune conditions, the exact cause is not known.

Symptoms of CIPD include impaired motor control, general weakness, and impaired sense of touch. As the condition progresses, it can lead to muscle atrophy and spasms; difficulty swallowing, chewing and talking; impaired coordination; and even paralysis.

In some cases, CIPD can be treated. By controlling inflammation, it may be possible to slow or stop the progression of the disease and alleviate symptoms. Treatments for CIPD include the use of steroids, immunosuppressant drugs, or immunotherapy. Removing antibodies that attack the nerve cells using a technique called plasmapheresis can benefit some patients. Left untreated, CIPD can lead to permanent neurological damage.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of nerve damage, such as paralysis or inability to move a body part, and breathing problems.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for CIPD and your symptoms worsen or begin to interfere with your daily life.

What are the symptoms of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy?

Symptoms of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD) are related to the breakdown of myelin (nerve cell insulation). These symptoms are progressive and may begin with minor weakness, changes in sensation, or impaired motor control.

Early symptoms of CIPD

Early symptoms of CIPD are related to inflammation of the nerves. You may experience CIPD symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these symptoms can be severe:

  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Numbness or tingling in arms or legs
  • Weakness (loss of strength)

Later symptoms of CIPD

As damage to the nerves worsens, so do the symptoms of CIPD including:

  • Balance problems, difficulty walking, and falls
  • Changes in voice
  • Gradual difficulty walking and speaking
  • Incontinence (inability to control urine and stools)
  • Loss of sensation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, CIPD can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Paralysis or inability to move a body part

  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or inability to breathe, labored breathing, wheezing, or choking

What causes chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy?

In many cases, the exact cause of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD) is not known. It may occur with other conditions, including some autoimmune disorders and inflammatory diseases.

Conditions that may be linked to chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy

Diseases and disorders associated with CIPD include:

What are the risk factors for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD). Not all people with risk factors will get CIPD. Risk factors for CIPD include:

  • Family history of autoimmune disorders

  • History of an immune or autoimmune disorder

  • History of Guillain-Barre syndrome (autoimmune nerve disorder)

How is chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy treated?

Treatment for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD) is aimed at controlling symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. Early diagnosis and treatment for CIPD is important, as proper treatment may halt, or even completely reverse, CIPD.

Medications for CIPD

Medication for CIPD is designed to reduce inflammation and prevent the immune system from attacking myelin. Medications for CIPD include:

  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone to reduce inflammation

  • Immunoglobulins to interfere with the immune system’s attacking the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells

  • Immunosuppressants to prevent the immune system from attacking the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells

Other treatment for CIPD

In severe cases, CIPD may require other treatments including:

  • Physical therapy to improve muscle function

  • Plasmapheresis to remove antibodies that attack the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells

Complementary treatments

Some complementary treatments may help some people in their efforts to deal with CIPD. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for traditional medical care. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are consuming nutritional supplements or homeopathic (nonprescription) remedies as they may interact with the prescribed medical therapy.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapy

  • Nutritional dietary supplements, herbal remedies, tea beverages, and similar products

  • Yoga

What are the potential complications of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy?

In many cases, early diagnosis and treatment for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD) may lead to a complete recovery. However, residual weakness or permanent loss of sensation is possible. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled CIPD can be serious. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of CIPD include:

  • Paralysis

  • Permanent loss of sensation

  • Permanent or chronic pain

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 25
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  2. Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  3. Saperstein DS, Katz JS, Amato AA, Barohn RJ. Clinical spectrum of chronic acquired demyelinating polyneuropathies. Muscle Nerve 2001; 24:311.