What is Nerve Damage?

The nervous system plays a role in most bodily functions, from regulating your heartbeat to controlling your muscle movements to helping you process and feel sensations, including pain. Nerves carry information to and from the brain and to and from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Nerve damage, which is also called neuropathy, is very common and can have a wide variety of symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Nerve damage and the resulting pain can have many causes, depending on which nerves are involved. Causes include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Trauma
  • Diabetes
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Motor neuron diseases
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Infectious diseases
  • Underactive thyroid gland

Symptoms

Nerve damage can have a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the type of nerves affected and their location.

Autonomic Nerves

The autonomic nerves controls the involuntary body functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and bladder function. Autonomic nerve damage symptoms include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Constipation
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Too much or too little sweating
  • Inability to sense chest pain

Motor Nerves

The motor nerves control muscle movement by sending information from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. Motor nerve damage symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Twitching
  • Paralysis

Sensory Nerves

The sensory nerves relay sensory information that includes temperature, pain and other sensations by sending information from the skin and muscles to the brain and spinal cord. Sensory nerve damage symptoms include:

  • Sharp, jabbing pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or prickling
  • Burning
  • Lack of coordination

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Diagnosis

Neuropathy can be very challenging to diagnose. Generally, a physical exam, neurological exam, patient history, and screening tests are the first steps.

Screening tests can detect or rule out diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, liver or kidney dysfunction, and other metabolic disorders. Other diagnostic tests for neuropathy include:

  • CT Scans that can detect vascular irregularities, brain tumors and cysts
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which can detect whether a nerve fiber has sustained compression damage.
  • Electromyograms (EMG) can help differentiate between muscle and nerve disorders.
  • Nerve conduction velocity testing can measure the degree of damage in large nerve fibers.
  • Nerve biopsy, which can provide valuable information about the degree of damage in a nerve
  • Skin biopsy, which can reveal information about nerve fiber endings.

Treatment Options

Nerve damage can be progressive, so it is important to seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear. The first goal of treatment at PMIR is to address the underlying condition that’s causing nerve damage. For example, if you have neuropathy that is caused by diabetes, it’s essential to learn to control your blood sugar.

After the underlying issue has been addressed, we offer treatment options for nerve damage that include:

Talk to our Pain and Spine Specialists