You probably are already aware, but in case you’re not, your nervous system controls every single thing your body does.
It regulates breathing, sense hot and cold, and even controls voluntary and involuntary muscle movements. You have three types of nerves in your body:
- Autonomic: these nerves control the involuntary and partially voluntary things your body does.
- Motor: these nerves control your voluntary movements/actions.
- Sensory: these nerves control your senses.
Damage can be done to any- or all- of these. Though it may be mild, since your nerves control your entire body, damage to them can have a very significant effect on your life as you know it.
What Causes Nerve Damage?
There are several things that can cause damage to your nerves. These are as follows:
There are several autoimmune disorders/disease that can result in damage to your nerves. These include MS, lupus, IBD, and more.
There are many ways that cancer can result in nerve damage. In some cases, cancerous tumors could push on the nerves, crushing them.
In other cases, cancer results in nerve damage due to nutritional deficiencies that it causes. Finally, cancer treatments, such as chemo and radiation could cause some nerve damage.
There are certain traumas/injuries that can result in nerve damage. These include: carpal tunnel syndrome, a pinched nerve in the neck, and a few others.
Did you know that as many as 50% of diabetics have some sort of nerve damage? As this disease progresses, the nerve damage can become much worse. Diabetic neuropathy is a very serious problem and can cause damage to all three types of nerves.
There are some infectious diseases that can result in nerve damage, including: HIV, herpes, hepatitis C, and Lyme disease.
Symptoms of Nerve Damage
Nerve damage can present with a wide variety of symptoms. The ones you have will depend on the nerves that are affected and where they are affected.
You can have nerve damage to your central nerves, or the ones located in your spinal cord and brain, or you can have damage to the peripheral nerves, which are located through the rest of your body.
Nerve damage to the autonomic nerves can result in the following symptoms:
- Too much/too little sweating
- Dry mouth/eyes
- Sexual dysfunction
- Unable to sense heart attack/angina
- Bladder dysfunction
Nerve damage to the motor nerves can result in the following symptoms:
- Muscle atrophy
Nerve damage to the sensory nerves can result in the following symptoms:
- Difficulties with positional awareness
In some cases, individuals with damage to their nerves will have symptoms that indicate that there is damage present in two, or even all three types of nerves.
For example, you could have weakness (motor nerves) and burning (sensory) in your legs occurring together.
How to Repair Nerve Damage
If you notice any of the above symptoms of nerve damage in yourself, you should immediately get in the office to see your physician.
Delaying or avoiding treatment can cause you to experience some severe complications. Your physician will be able to diagnose you with nerve damage through a physical exam and review of your symptoms.
Once he/she has determined that you do have nerve damage, you will undergo electromyography, which is a nerve conduction test that will determine the extent of the nerve damage. Following are some tips on how to treat and repair nerve damage.
First and foremost, you should get an adequate amount of rest. When your damaged nerve is given some time and rest, it is able to heal on its own.
This will ensure that you have a quicker recovery time. Additionally, taking some time to rest will prevent the damage from becoming worse.
Typically, when you have nerve pain, your physician will prescribe a tricyclic antidepressant to give you some relief of the pain associated with the nerve damage. Other medications he/she may prescribe include pain medications and anti-seizure medications.
If you have been injured and the nerve damage is due to being crushed, this will not be treatable by rest and medication. In this case, the nerve will need to be repaired through surgery.
The disconnected end of the nerve will either need to be reattached, or a donor nerve will be used to repair the nerve damage through grafting techniques.
Treating the Underlying Medical Cause
If your nerve damage is due to an underlying medical problem, it is vital that you get that under control. For example, if you have diabetes, you should keep your blood sugar under control.
This means that glucose levels should be between 80 and 120 in order to relieve the symptoms of neuropathy. You can keep your blood sugar under control by taking your medications when you’re supposed to, following a low glucose diabetic diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.
If your nerve damage is a result of one of the medications you’re taking, the medication will need to be changed.
If your nerve damage is due to malnutrition, your physician will tell you that you need to make sure to consume a balanced diet- with nutritional supplements, if necessary.
Alternative Treatments for Nerve Damage
One of the best alternative treatments for nerve damage is physical therapy. This will add some strength to the weak nerve and the muscles surrounding it, as well as improve the coordination between the two.
Physical therapy can be used in any case, and is almost always part of the rehab program prescribed for those patients who have had surgery to repair nerve damage.
Another great alternative treatment for nerve damage is acupuncture. Many individuals have shown significant improvement in their nerve problems after using acupuncture.
You should know that there are some cases where the nerve damage will not be repairable. In these cases, some of the treatment methods mentioned can still provide significant improvement in the symptoms.
Also, keep in mind that mental stress can cause permanent damage to the nerves, which can be controlled with changes in lifestyle and meditation.