8 Signs You Might Have Nerve Damage

March 15 2018

There are billions of nerves in your body. Most of them, your peripheral nerves, are like branches of a tree that spread out all over and transmit messages back to the “trunk”—your brain and spinal cord.

When everything goes smoothly, your brain gets the info it needs so that you can move your muscles, recognise pain, and keep your internal organs working properly. But when peripheral nerves get damaged, it’s another story: Walking could become challenging, you might experience unrelenting pain, or you could end up with a serious injury because you had no idea how hot that stove was.

“Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of peripheral nerve damage. Bad luck [meaning you inherited an anatomical defect] is number two. Repetitive motion and Lyme disease follow,” says Dr Andrew Elkwood.

Other causes include sudden trauma (like a car accident) ageing, vitamin deficiencies, heavy exposure to toxins (including alcohol, cancer medications, lead, mercury and arsenic), and infections and autoimmune disorders like hepatitis C, diphtheria, HIV, Epstein-Barr, rheumatoid arthritis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Meanwhile, about 30%-40% of neuropathy cases are “idiopathic,” meaning there’s no known cause.

The good news is that nerve damage generally develops slowly, says neurologist Dr Isha Gupta. That means you might be able to treat it before it worsens—but getting the right diagnosis isn’t always easy. Your best shot? See a doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms.

You have numbness, tingling, or burning.

This sensation may radiate from your hands or feet into your arms or legs. “Compression of sensory nerves (often while sleeping) is relatively common, and symptoms such as numbness or tingling can be temporary,” says Gupta. But if the pins-and-needles feeling doesn’t go away, get it checked out.

It’s difficult or impossible to move part of your body.

“If motor nerves are affected, then weakness or even paralysis may occur,” says neurologist Dr R. Glenn Smith. These same symptoms could also indicate that there’s an underlying issue that needs urgent attention, so it’s best to head to the ER. If it turns out that you’re actually having a stoke, you’ll need medical attention ASAP.

You have pain running down just one leg.

A constant sharp pain, burning or tingling that starts in the lower back and travels down the back of your leg could mean that you have sciatica. This happens when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or damaged, either by a herniated disk in your spine or by a disease such as diabetes.

You’re way clumsier than usual.

Suddenly stumbling and falling a lot? “If large nerves affecting sensation are damaged, then lack of coordination and failure to sense the position of the body can lead to falls,” says Smith. It might also turn out that you have a condition like Parkinson’s, in which the nerve cells in your brain have become damaged.

You’re running to the bathroom all the time.

Damaged nerves can send your bladder faulty messages, so you feel like you have to pee a lot or have trouble making it to the restroom in time. You have a higher than average risk of this problem if you gave birth to a child vaginally or have diabetes.

You get brief, intense headaches that feel like electric shocks.

You may have something called occipital neuralgia, a condition that can occur when a nerve in your neck gets pinched. You may need a nerve block—an injection that temporarily blocks the troublesome nerve from transmitting pain signals.

You’re sweating too much or too little.

It might be a sign that the nerves carrying info from your brain to your sweat glands have become compromised. Your doctor might order tests to measure your sweating and heart rate.

You got injured because you didn’t feel something you should have.

Sensory nerves are supposed to tell your brain that a surface is dangerous in some way, and if they’re not doing their job properly you could seem more accident-prone. If you have burns, cuts or other trauma because you didn’t realise that you were touching something hot, sharp or otherwise uncomfortable, see your doc, says Smith.

Sourced from Prevention.