Background: Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is a genetically heterogeneous group of hereditary motor and sensory polyneuropathies in which sleep apnoea has rarely been reported and no causal relation shown. We looked for an association between the most common subtype of CMT disease (CMT1A) and sleep apnoea syndrome.
Methods: Having diagnosed sleep apnoea and CMT in one family member (index case), we prospectively investigated 13 further members not previously suspected of having neuropathy or apnoeas. All had a neurological examination, electroneuromyography, polysomnography, and genetic testing for CMT disease.
Findings: 11 of the 14 family members had the autosomal dominant demyelinating form of CMT disease with PMP22 gene duplication on chromosome 17. Whatever their neurological disability, all 11 individuals had sleep apnoea syndrome with a mean (SD) apnoea-hypopnoea index of 46.6/h (28.5) of sleep (normal value <15/h). The remaining three family members were free from neuropathy and sleep apnoea syndrome. Sleep apnoea and neuropathy severity were highly correlated; the compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitude of the median nerve was inversely correlated with the apnoea-hypopnoea index (r=-0.69, p=0.029). The severity of neuropathy and sleep apnoea were higher in male CMT individuals and were correlated with age and body mass index. No wake or sleep diaphragmatic dysfunction was shown.
Interpretation: We think that sleep apnoea syndrome is related to a pharyngeal neuropathy. Upper airway dysfunction, previously described in the CMT2C subtype, might be a clinical expression of the CMT1A subtype, to which familial susceptibility could predispose.