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Diseases reference index «Chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy»

Chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy is nerve swelling and irritation (inflammation) that leads to a loss of movement or sensation.


Chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy is a common type of damage to nerves outside the brain or spinal cord (peripheral neuropathy). Polyneuropathy means several nerves are involved. It usually affects both sides of the body the same amount.

The cause of chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy is an abnormal immune response. The specific triggers vary. In many cases, the cause is unknown.

It may occur with other conditions, such as:

  • Blood cell abnormalities
  • Chronic active hepatitis
  • HIV
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lupus erythematosus

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a form of inflammatory polyneuropathy that lasts for a shorter time.


  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty using the arms and hands or legs and feet
  • Facial weakness
  • Sensation changes (usually of the arms and hands or legs and feet)
    • Numbness or decreased sensation
    • Pain, burning, tingling, or other abnormal sensations
  • Weakness, usually in the arms and hands or legs and feet

Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

  • Abnormal movement
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fatigue
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of function or feeling in the muscles
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle contractions
  • Paralysis of the face
  • Speech impairment
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Uncoordinated movement

Exams and Tests

An exam shows:

  • Loss of muscle mass
  • No reflexes
  • Paralysis
  • Problems with the senses
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensation problems on both sides of the body, moving from the arms and legs to the center of the body

Tests may include:

  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Nerve conduction tests
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Spinal tap

Which other tests are done depends on the suspected cause of the condition, and may include x-rays, imaging scans, and blood tests.


The goal of treatment is to control symptoms. What treatment is given depends on how severe the symptoms are, among other things. The most aggressive treatment is usually only given if you have difficulty walking or if symptoms interfere with your ability to care for yourself or perform work functions.

Treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms
  • Other medications that suppress the immune system (for some severe cases)
  • Removing the fluid part of the blood (plasma) that contains antibodies from the body, removing the antibodies, and then replacing the plasma (plasmapheresis)
  • Adding large numbers of antibodies to the plasma to dilute the effect of the antibodies that are causing the problem (intravenous immune globulin (IVIg))

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome varies. The disorder may continue long-term, or you may have repeated episodes of symptoms. Complete recovery is possible, but permanent loss of nerve function is not uncommon.

Possible Complications

  • Pain
  • Permanent decrease or loss of sensation in areas of the body
  • Permanent weakness or paralysis in areas of the body
  • Repeated or unnoticed injury to an area of the body
  • Side effects of medications used to treat the disorder

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have a loss of movement or sensation in any area of the body, especially if your symptoms get worse.

Alternative Names

Polyneuropathy - chronic inflammatory; CIDP; Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy

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