Your body contains about 7 trillion nerves. These make up the nervous system and are responsible for sending information from the brain and spinal cord to your various organs.
Your nerves are important, and nerve damage can cause a number of problems in your body. Knowing what are the signs of nerve damage can help you take better care of your body, and seek treatment as soon as you feel that there is something wrong.
What is nerve damage?
The medical term for nerve damage is peripheral neuropathy. People with peripheral neuropathy feel a stabbing, burning, or tingling sensation in the affected parts of the body. This condition usually results from injuries, infections, metabolic problems, or even genetics.
One of the more common causes of nerve damage is diabetes. This is because, over time, high levels of sugar in a person’s blood can cause damage to the nerves.
There are also other health conditions that can cause nerve damage, such as the following:
- Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
- Chronic kidney disease
- Poor circulation in the legs
- Trauma or pressure on a nerve
- Lead or mercury poisoning
- Alcohol abuse
- Metabolic disease
- Hepatitis C
If left untreated, nerve damage can worsen and cause even more severe health problems. This is why knowing what are the signs of nerve damage can help people seek treatment as soon as possible.
What are the signs of nerve damage?
When nerves get damaged, either one of two things happens:
- The myelin sheath, or an insulating layer that protects the nerves, gets damaged
- The axon, which is the part that carries the signals and information in the nerve, gets damaged. It is also possible that both the myelin sheath and the axon can get damaged at the same time.
This causes problems with how the nerve communicates with the brain, and manifests as the various symptoms that people experience when they have nerve damage.
The symptoms vary depending on which nerves are affected, and what type of damage the nerve has. The symptoms that people experience can usually be categorized under three general groups:
Sharp, stabbing pains and numbness
These symptoms are usually the earliest and most common signs of nerve damage. Numbness can be felt in the hands and feet. It has been likened to having pins and needles. People with nerve damage can also experience sharp, stabbing pains in the affected parts of the body.
As the nerve damage worsens, people with nerve damage may not be able to feel anything in their arms or legs. This is especially risky. If they get a cut or a wound, they may not notice it immediately, and it can get infected. This is usually the case for people with diabetes, as their condition increases the risk of nerve damage, and their wounds also heal slower.
These symptoms are also common in people with carpal tunnel syndrome. This happens when the median nerve, a major nerve in the hand, gets squeezed or compressed. Pins and needles, as well as pain, usually manifest as symptoms of this condition.
Muscle problems are also another possible sign of nerve damage. This usually manifests as weakness or difficulty in moving certain muscles.
Just like pain and numbness, muscle problems typically affect a person’s hands and feet. This can make it difficult for them to do simple tasks such as holding a pen or holding a glass of water. It can also make walking difficult, and can even cause people to fall if their legs suddenly buckle.
Twitching of the muscles, as well as cramps, are also common symptoms that people with nerve problems experience.
Problems in other organs
While nerve problems usually affect a person’s hands and feet first, it is also possible for other organs to be affected. After all, nerves are located throughout the body, and the brain uses these nerves to communicate with your organs.
Some people may experience trouble with their digestion, and can feel full or bloated after eating just a small amount of food. It can also manifest as problems in swallowing, as well as vomiting out food that has not been digested.
The nerves in the heart can also be damaged. This can cause lightheadedness or dizziness, changes in heart rate, and low blood pressure.
Men can also experience erectile dysfunction, while women can suffer from vaginal dryness or difficulty reaching orgasm.
Bladder problems are another common symptom of nerve damage, and people with this problem might not be able to control urination.
Your nerves also help regulate your body’s temperature through sweating. This means that you can sweat a little or sweat too much if you have nerve problems.
How can nerve damage be prevented or treated?
Treatment for nerve damage entails addressing the underlying cause.
This means that for people with diabetes, getting their blood sugar under control is very important.
If the nerve damage is caused by a disease, addressing the illness becomes a priority.
In cases where trauma or pressure on a nerve is the problem, therapy may be recommended by your doctor. In some cases, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery can also be an option.
Here are some ways to prevent nerve damage:
- If you feel any chronic numbness or pain in your hands and feet, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor.
- For people with diabetes, it is always a good idea to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
- Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables to help maintain your body’s health.
- If you are obese or overweight, try and lose some weight. Being obese and overweight is a risk factor for diabetes and heart problems, which can both cause nerve damage.
- Daily exercise is important in maintaining your body’s functions. It is recommended to do at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
- Having good posture and hand positioning when you are typing is important in preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- If you engage in sports, be sure to stay safe. As much as possible, avoid getting injured.
- Drinking too much alcohol can also cause nerve problems, so it is important to always drink in moderation.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.