Nerve Disorders

Nerve disorders may develop in the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) or the peripheral nervous system. Together your nerves are essential for everything that you do, and a nerve disorder can have serious consequences.

There are three different types of nerves in the body that together control many of the functions in your body from muscle control and breathing to digestion and sensation:

  • Autonomic nerves – control the involuntary functions in the body (such as digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate)
  • Sensory nerves – relay information from your body to your brain for processing (such as pain and other sensations)
  • Motor nerves – control movements by passing information between your muscles and your brain (such as running and jumping)

What are the symptoms of a nerve disorder?

This depends on the underlying condition, the location of the damage, and the type of nerves that are affected.

An autonomic nerve disorder may have symptoms such as:

  • Sweating
  • Light headedness
  • Constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Loss of sensation in the chest

Motor nerve damage may present with:

  • Muscle weakness or atrophy
  • Twitching
  • Paralysis

Sensory nerve disorders can have the following symptoms:

  • Pain and sensitivity
  • Numbness or tingling

Many nerve disorders have symptoms that indicate damage to two or all three different types of nerves, such as numbness and tingling, along with muscle weakness.

What causes nerve disorders?

Nerve pain and nerve damage may be caused by:

  • Diabetes, nerve damage occurs in around 70% of diabetics, especially as the disease progresses. Diabetic neuropathy can affect all three types of neurons, most commonly sensory nerves.
  • Autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Cancer can cause nerve disorders as cancerous tumors press on nerves or cause nutritional deficiencies. Chemotherapy used in the treatment of cancer can also result in nerve disorders.
  • Infectious diseases; herpes, HIV, Hep C, and Lyme disease are among the conditions that can damage the nerves in your body.
  • Nerve compression can lead to pain or damage to nerves such as pinched nerves in the neck, carpal tunnel syndrome, and many spinal conditions.
  • Drugs, certain types of medication used to treat conditions such as HIV and cancer may cause nerve pain and nerve damage.
  • Motor neuron diseases, the nerves in your brain and spinal column can be affected by ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, resulting in progressive nerve damage.
  • Nutritional deficiencies, if you are lacking vitamins such as B6 or B12, or have recently had gastric surgery, you may experience nerve pain.

When should you see a doctor?

If you have nerve damage, it is possible that it cannot be fully cured, but there are various treatments that will offer relief and may halt the progression of the disorder. It is, therefore, essential to consult with a specialist when you first notice symptoms of nerve damage to reduce the chance of permanent, irreversible damage as well as slowing or halting the condition’s progression.

Your doctor will take a full medical history and conduct a physical examination to determine and resolve the underlying cause of the nerve pain or damage. Interventions include blood sugar regulation for diabetics, the correction of any nutritional deficiencies, updates to medication if there are drugs causing nerve damage, physical therapy, and medications to address autoimmune conditions.

To manage pain and relieve the symptoms of nerve damage, your doctor may suggest:

  • Pain relief medication
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation or biofeedback

Make an appointment

The first step to effectively treating a nerve disorder is to get an accurate diagnosis and, from there, develop a treatment plan. At Northwest Surgical Specialists, we have many years of experience in diagnosing nerve conditions and will be able to offer an effective treatment protocol. We look forward to helping you journey toward health and wellness.