Nerve Injury: Conditions & Common Causes

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Nerves are essentially the electrical wiring system of the human body, carrying messages from the brain to the rest of the body, and vice versa. Just like electrical wiring, nerves are covered with insulation for protection. When nerves or the tissue protecting the nerves are damaged, the signals from the brain can be impaired or disrupted completely depending on the type of nerve damage.

Types of Nerve Injuries

The general medical term for nerve damage is peripheral neuropathy, meaning that there is some type of signal disruption within the nerves. While nerve damage has many causes (from physical injury to disease), there are basically three ways in which nerves are damaged—by pressure, stretching or cutting. If the nerve is cut, then the insulation is cut as well and surgery will be required to repair the damage. This is the most serious type of damage, as it’s uncertain at best whether the nerve and insulation will repair themselves. If the nerve is damaged by pressure or stretching but the insulation is not damaged, recovery is more likely as long as the reason for the pressure or stretching (e.g., a slipped disc or tumor) is removed.

Consequences of Nerve Damage

Conditions caused by nerve damage range from very slight (your leg falling asleep is just a nerve being compressed) to extremely severe (paralysis). Paralysis is caused by damage to the nerves of the brain or the spinal cord (or the nerves outside the spinal cord) and the paralysis will depend on where the damage is located. The most common cause of paralysis is stroke or physical trauma (broken neck or back), and paralysis from these causes are often severe and frequently irreversible.

While protection from physical trauma (a fall or slip) and inherited disease isn’t possible, people can take precautions such as having a balanced diet, correcting vitamin deficiencies and limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption. Taking such precautions can reduce the risk of stroke and acquired diseases that can cause nerve damage.

If you have suffered a nerve injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries and for any medical expenses that are the direct result of the injuries. A personal injury attorney can give you advice for your particular case. This is because all states have a statute of limitations, that limits how long you have to file a case (for example, some states allow 2 years from the date of the injury or from when the injury was or should have been discovered).

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