Peripheral nerves send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. They help do things such as sense that the feet are cold and move the body’s muscles for walking. Peripheral nerves are made of fibers called axons that are insulated by surrounding tissues.
Peripheral nerves are fragile and easily damaged. A nerve injury can affect the brain’s ability to communicate with muscles and organs. Damage to the peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy.
It’s important to get medical care for a peripheral nerve injury as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent complications and permanent damage.
How nerve damage happens
Nerve damage can occur after any injury, with the results often being related to the severity of the injury. Minor injuries may cause some nerve damage, but your body tries to heal itself whenever possible. However, more serious injuries can cause severe nerve damage which often requires nerve repairs.
Nerves are made up of fibers, which are also called axons. These fibers are covered with tissues that act as a type of insulation. Sometimes, after an injury, only the fibers are damaged. In the more serious scenarios, both the fibers and tissues are damaged. In some cases, the nerve is completely cut.
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The signs of nerve damage
Without properly functioning nerves, you are likely to experience uncomfortable or even painful sensations. These occur because the nerves are not able to carry the correct signals from the brain to the spinal cord. The signs of nerve damage include the following:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Feeling like you’re wearing a tight glove or sock
- Muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs
- Regularly dropping objects that you’re holding
- Sharp pains in your hands, arms, legs, or feet
- A buzzing sensation that feels like a mild electrical shock
Nerve damage tends to be worse in the part of the body that was injured. For example, if you injured your arm or shoulder, you may have more symptoms in your arms and hands than in your feet.
Repairing nerve damage
Damaged nerves can sometimes be repaired, especially if they are treated quickly after an injury. For that reason, it’s important to call us after a serious injury or when you first notice the signs of nerve damage. This is a situation in which you don’t want to wait too long because sometimes nerves reach a point of being irreparable.
Dr. Shults can repair nerves, whether or not you’ve caught the symptoms early enough. He explores the damaged nerve(s) and removes any injured tissues. Then, he can often reconnect even severed nerves, as long as there’s enough of the nerves left to reattach without making it too tight.
Once the nerve has been repaired, you can generally expect sensation to come back gradually over a period of a couple of months. Your nerves have an ability to heal and regenerate even once they have been damaged, assuming that they have been properly repaired.