What Causes Nerve Damage? Nerve Damage Often Is a Complication of Another Underlying Cause

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Structure of the Nervous System

Knowledge of the impact of nerve damage is best understood with some basic nervous system anatomy. Your nervous system is composed of two primary divisions: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Each system controls specific body functions.

The central nervous system controls the involuntary functions of your body such as breathing. It includes your brain and spinal cord. The peripheral system, on the other hand, controls how your body responds to stimuli from its environment. It includes instincts such as drawing your hand away from a hot oven and motor functions like picking up a ball. Cranial and spinal nerves make up this system.

Each system consists of automatic nerves which involve involuntary or partially involuntary activities, motor nerves which involve your movements, and sensory nerves which process sensory information. The effects of nerve damage are determined by what system and nerves are affected.

What Causes Nerve Damage?

Nerve damage is often a symptom of another condition rather than a disease of itself. It can be a symptom of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or lupus. Multiple sclerosis causes physical damage to the nerves by attacking the myelin or protective covering of the nerves. If sensory nerves are damaged, for instance, the patient may experience numbness or tingling sensation.

Like multiple sclerosis, lupus attacks your body’s own tissues. Symptoms vary with the individual though most patients report fatigue and joint or muscle pain. Many patients experience headaches or anxiety. Damage to the nervous system and its nerves is often a complication of severe cases.

Diabetes and Nerve Damage

Diabetes is another condition that causes of nerve damage, a complication that the majority of diabetes patients will encounter. All types of nerve cells can be impacted. Prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels is believed to be the root cause. A diabetic individual cannot cannot easily control blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance or lack of insulin. Uncontrolled diabetes increase your risk of complications.

Other Causes of Nerve Damage

What causes of nerve damage? Other infectious diseases such as Lyme disease or HIV may cause injury to the nervous system. As with other nerve damage, the symptoms vary with the type of nerve damage and its extent. Some vitamin deficiencies such as vitamins B6 and B12 may lead to nerve damage.

Trauma from an automobile accident or fall can also cause direct injury of nerve cells or subsequent swelling of body tissues may press on nerves, depriving them of blood and nutrients. Similar effects have been documented in cancer patients. Without adequate blood flow, the body cannot provide the necessary nutrients for proper nervous system function.

The real danger of nerve damage is within the nerves themselves. Unlike other cells of the body, nerve cells do not repair themselves. Damage is often permanent. Research is ongoing for ways to treat nervous system injuries and find ways for nerves to function again. A healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and plenty of exercise will help you prevent some types of nerve damage.


Brain and Spinal Cord: Multiple Sclerosis– brainandspinalcord.org/causes-of-paralysis/multiple-sclerosis.html

Tortora, Gerard J. and Grabowski, Sandra Reynolds. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. 2003.