Peripheral Nerve Injuries

What is Peripheral Nerve Injuries?

The peripheral nerves of the body come together as a part of an extensive and complicated network. These nerves allow the spinal cord and the brain to communicate with all areas of the body. However, these nerves can also easily become damaged because they are fragile.

Peripheral nerve injury could be minor, or it could result in a completely severed nerve. Regeneration of the nerve might be possible, but that will be determined by the amount of damage, as well as the type of damage, that was caused.

A peripheral nerve could become compressed or entrapped as a result of several conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve entrapment, and anterior interosseous neuropathy, as a few examples.

Hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatic, gout, carcinomatosis, acromegaly, diabetes, and amyloidosis are some of the conditions that could increase the risk of peripheral nerve injuries.

Common causes for nerve injuries include surgery, injections, stretch, compression, electric shocks, laceration and contusion.

These injuries are classified into five different degrees according to severity. A first-degree injury might be easily reversible while a fifth-degree nerve injury requires reconstructive surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve Injuries?

The symptoms most commonly caused by peripheral nerve injuries include pain, numbness, and a burning sensation in the area that has been affected. Additionally, a person can also experience tingling, muscular weakness, pricking and sometimes develop an exaggerated sensitivity to stimuli such as an intense sense of touch.

Peripheral Nerve Injuries Causes

There are many potential causes of peripheral nerve injury. Physical trauma is a major one, as this can cause nerves to be severed, stretched or compressed, which might damage them. Car accidents, falls, bone fractures or any other type of physical trauma can lead to peripheral nerve injury.

Sometimes peripheral nerve damage can be caused by infections, both bacterial and viral, which might directly attack the nerves. Herpes simplex, varcella-zoster, and Epstein-Barr viruses are such examples of infections which could lead to nerve injury.

Certain medical conditions can also cause peripheral nerve injury as a complication. Examples of this are:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disorders
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Inflammatory autoimmune disorders

It’s also possible to sustain peripheral nerve injury by taking certain medications, such as:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Cancer treatments
  • Medications for treating bacterial infections

How is Peripheral Nerve Injuries Treated?

When a peripheral nerve is injured, the only treatment may be surgery. This may also be necessary if there are neurologic symptoms that are persistent, and if conservative approaches have not worked.

Peripheral nerve problems can be treated in order to eliminate, or at least reduce, symptoms. Non-surgical options include physical therapy, immobilization, and medications.

Peripheral Nerve Injuries Prevention

It isn’t always possible to prevent peripheral nerve injuries, particularly those sustained through physical trauma. However, in these cases, rapid treatment and rehabilitation may allow the nerve to recover rather than being permanently damaged.

Diabetes is a common cause of peripheral nerve injury and, in the case of type 2 diabetes, it can be avoided. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs as a result of poor diet and obesity, both of which cause insulin resistance and, eventually, diabetes. By maintaining a healthy BMI – or losing weight to achieve a healthy BMI – and eating a balanced diet with moderate amounts of sugar and carbohydrates, it may be possible to reduce the risk of diabetes and subsequent nerve damage.

Those who already have type 2 diabetes can reduce the risk of peripheral nerve damage by keeping their illness under control. Be sure to follow all advice given to you by your healthcare provider in terms of diet, lifestyle changes and medication use.

Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
December 26, 2017