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Understanding nerve weakness

6 January

Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, is a problem that occurs in the nervous system which causes numbing, tingling, weakness, and pain in the affected area. It occurs when nerve cells (neurons) become damaged or destroyed. This causes a disruption of communication between the brain and the neurons.

What causes peripheral neuropathy/nerve weakness?

A multitude of conditions can be contributors to peripheral neuropathy/ nerve weakness, which can range from health conditions to lifestyle habits.

Some health conditions that may lead to nerve weakness:

  • Diabetes: this is the most common cause of nerve weakness
  • Autoimmune diseases: this includes Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and vasculitis
  • Inherited disorders: such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Vascular disorders: such as inflammation, blood clots, or blood vessel disorders
  • Bone marrow disorders: such as abnormal protein in the blood (monoclonal gammopathies), a form of bone cancer (myeloma), lymphoma, and the rare disease amyloidosis

Some lifestyle habits that may lead to nerve weakness:

  • Alcoholism: can lead to Vitamin deficiencies
  • Toxic substances: exposure to poisonous chemicals such as lead and mercury
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Vitamin B-1, B-6, B-12, and Vitamin E Signs that your nerves may be damaged Nerve damage usually develops slowly, and the symptoms it shows can indicate the extent of the damage.

Some nerve damage symptoms include:

  1. Feeling of numbness, tingling, or burning - This is one of the earliest signs of nerve damage that may radiate from the hands or feet and spread into the arms and legs.
  2. Loss of sensation - Sensory nerves may not function properly, thereby making you more prone to accidents due to an inability to feel discomfort caused by pain, heat, etc.
  3. Difficulty in moving parts of the body - Muscle weakness or paralysis may occur if the motor nerves are damaged. One may also simultaneously experience sudden confusion, difficulty seeing, severe headaches, or trouble walking.
  4. Pain running down a single leg - This refers to a constant pain that originates in the lower back and travels down the leg. It happens when the sciatic nerve becomes damaged or compressed.
  5. Difficulties in coordination - What may seem like clumsiness while walking is actually a lack of coordination between mind and body due to larger nerves affecting sensation being damaged. Other problems that may accompany this include tremors, rigid muscles, and speech changes.
  6. Frequent urination - Damaged nerves may relay false signals of bladder fullness to the brain, causing you to visit the restroom far more often than usual.
  7. Excess sweating - Body temperature may fluctuate frequently, causing profuse sweating. This may be a sign of nerves transmitting information to the brain of the sweat glands being compromised.
  8. Brief, intense headaches - Occipital neuralgia is a condition that may be the result of a nerve in the neck getting pinched. One of its prominent symptoms is short, frequent, and painful headaches that feel like electric shocks.

Preventing nerve weakness through healthy lifestyle choices

  1. Healthy nutrition: consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and fortified cereals
  2. Regular exercise of at least 30 minutes a day
  3. Avoid indulging in alcohol

Dr. Subhransu Sekhar Jena

Sr. Consultant
MBBS, MD (General Medicine), DM, DNB (Neurology), MNAMS
CARE Hospitals, Bhubaneswar

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