Nerves carry messages back and forth between the brain and other parts of the body. All of our nerves together make up the nervous system.
Nerve damage can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender, and can significantly impact the daily life of a person. It is a condition that affects millions of people around the world, with impacts ranging from mild discomfort to deliberating pain and even disability. Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of factors including medical conditions and injuries. People suffering from nerve damage may experience symptoms such as tingling, numbness, muscle weakness and problems with coordination and pain.
In this post, we will be talking about what nerve damage is, discuss the common symptoms and find out how to help and prevent ourselves from nerve damage.
What is nerve damage?
Nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, is a condition that affects the nerves responsible for sending messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Damage to the peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy. Nerve damage will affect the ability of our brain to communicate with muscles and organs. There are many types of nerve damage, with different symptoms that may require different types of treatment.
How does nerve damage happen?
How nerve damage occurs can depend on the underlying cause. Nerve may be damaged as a result of destruction of the myelin sheath, which is an insulating layer surrounding the nerves. It can also be due to direct damage to the nerve itself. The extent of nerve damage may also vary.
Why is knowing about nerve damage important?
Knowing about nerve damage is important because it is a condition that can significantly impact a person's daily life. The various symptoms resulting from nerve damage can affect a person's ability to perform daily activities and negatively impact their quality of life. If left untreated, nerve damage can worsen and lead to permanent disability.
Certain nerve damage can be caused by various underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorder and infections and these may require treatment earlier when detected. By knowing about nerve damage and recognising their symptoms, early detection of underlying disease can be done and early treatment can help to alleviate pain. This can prevent the condition from progressing and prevent further damage, which can improve overall health outcomes.
Signs and symptoms of nerve damage
Signs and symptoms of nerve damages may vary depending on the type and severity of the underlying conditions. These symptoms can occur in various parts of the body, depending on which nerves are affected. The common symptoms of nerve damage can include:
Tingling and numbness
Nerve damage may cause gradual numbness and tingling sensation in the feet and hands, which can spread upwards to your arms and legs.
Muscle weakness especially in your arms or legs
Some may have difficulty even in small movements such as moving the toes and hands.
Sensitive to touch
Some people may experience increased sensitivity to touch, making even light pressure or touch painful.
Nerve damage can cause various types of pain such as sharp pain, burning or stabbing pain.
Loss of coordination and falling
This can cause one to be clumsy and lose balance, especially in the dark.
Bladder or bowel problems
Damage to nerves that control the bladder or bowel function may lead to incontinence or difficulties in emptying the bladder.
Damage to nerves that are responsible for the digestive function may cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or constipation.
What are the common causes of nerve damage?
Nerve damage can happen due to a variety of factors and everyone is at risk of getting nerve damage. Some of the common cause of nerve damage includes:
Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood sugar, cancer and autoimmune disorder can damage the small blood vessels that supply the nerves or cause the immune system to attack the nerves, leading to nerve damage.
Prolonged exposure to certain toxins such as heavy metals and chemotherapy drugs will disrupt the normal function of nerve cells, which can lead to cell damage or cell death.
Physical injuries such as accidents, falls or fractures can damage the nerves.
Some infections will trigger an immune system response which will lead to inflammation and damage to the nerves.
Several nutritional deficiencies can cause nerve damage and these deficiencies may be caused by lack of consumption or malabsorption. Nutrients such as Vitamin B6 and Methylcobalamin (B12) are essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Excessive intake of alcohol, especially over extended period, may damage nerves.
How is nerve damage diagnosed?
Since early diagnosis and treatment of nerve damage is crucial to help prevent complications and permanent damage, nerve damage is normally diagnosed through a series of questions by your healthcare professional on your medical history and the symptoms that you are experiencing. They may also carry out physical examinations to look for signs of nerve damage. Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) are tests to measure electrical activities of the nerves and muscles and to detect any nerve damage.
How to prevent nerve damage?
The ability of our body to repair damaged nerves depends on the severity and type of nerve damage. Although in some cases the nerve can repair itself slowly over time, some nerve damage are more severe that the damage caused may be permanent. This is why preventing nerve damage is crucial as damaged nerves will affect our quality of life.
Preventing nerve damage involves taking care of your overall health and avoiding factors that can damage your nerves. These are some of the ways that you can prevent nerve damage:
Keeping your blood sugar level at a healthy range
High blood sugar can lead to nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy.
Getting regular physical activity
Taking regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of getting high blood sugar and high blood pressure that may cause damage to the nerve if left untreated.
Practice good posture
Poor posture can put excessive pressure on the nerves and cause nerve damage over time. Be mindful of your posture even sitting down or standing up.
Avoid exposure to toxins whenever possible such as heavy metals, lead and mercury that will damage our nerves.
Wear protective gear
Wear helmets or wrist guards while participating in activities that are at risk of injuries to reduce nerve damage.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Practise a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to keep nerves healthy. Also, increase intake of key nutrients that can support nerve health such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and protein. These nutrients can help to protect nerves from damage and inflammation and repair nerve tissues.
It is important to take care of our overall health and to seek medical attention if you are constantly experiencing symptoms of nerve damages. As not all symptoms of nerve damage will be presented in every case, making regular visits to your healthcare professional is important for early detection and proper diagnosis. Early treatment can help to prevent further damage to our nerves and improve the chances of recovery.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 20). Diabetes and nerve damage. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-nerve-damage.html
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, August 11). Peripheral neuropathy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352061