Your nervous system is involved in everything your body does, from regulating your breathing to controlling your muscles and sensing heat and cold.
There are three types of nerves in the body:
- Autonomic nerves. These nerves control the involuntary or partially voluntary activities of your body, including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and temperature regulation.
- Motor nerves. These nerves control your movements and actions by passing information from your brain and spinal cord to your muscles.
- Sensory nerves. These nerves relay information from your skin and muscles back to your spinal cord and brain. The information is then processed to let you feel pain and other sensations.
Because nerves are essential to all you do, nerve pain and damage can seriously affect your quality of life.
What Are the Symptoms of Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage?
With nerve damage there can be a wide array of symptoms. Which ones you may have depends on the location and type of nerves that are affected. Damage can occur to nerves in your brain and spinal cord. It can also occur in the peripheral nerves, which are located throughout the rest of your body.
Autonomic nerve damage may produce the following symptoms:
- Inability to sense chest pain, such as angina or heart attack
- Too much sweating (known as hyperhidrosis) or too little sweating (known as anhidrosis)
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Bladder dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
Damage to motor nerves may produce the following symptoms:
- Muscle atrophy
- Twitching, also known as fasciculation
Sensory nerve damage may produce the following symptoms:
- Tingling or prickling
- Problems with positional awareness
In some instances, people with nerve damage will have symptoms that indicate damage to two, or even three, different types of nerves. For instance, you might experience weakness and burning of your legs at the same time.
What Causes Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage?
There are more than 100 different types of nerve damage. The various types may have different symptoms and may require different types of treatment.
It is estimated that about 1 in 50 Americans suffers from peripheral nerve damage. This type of damage becomes increasingly common with age. In one out of every four people with diabetes has some nerve damage.
- Autoimmune diseases
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Drug side effects and toxic substances
- Motor neuron diseases
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Infectious disease
How Are Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage Treated?
In many instances, nerve damage cannot be cured entirely. But there are various treatments that can reduce your symptoms. Because nerve damage is often progressive, it is important to consult with a doctor when you first notice symptoms. That way you can reduce the likelihood of permanent damage.
Often, the first goal of treatment is to address the underlying condition that’s causing your nerve pain or nerve damage. This may mean:
- Regulating blood sugar levels for people with diabetes
- Correcting nutritional deficiencies
- Changing medications when drugs are causing nerve damage
- Physical therapy or surgery to address compression or trauma to nerves
- Medications to treat autoimmune conditions
Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medications aimed at minimizing the nerve pain you are feeling. These may include:
- Pain relievers
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Certain anti-seizure drugs
Complementary and alternative approaches may also help alleviate your nerve pain and discomfort. These include: