Your nervous system is involved in everything your body
does, from regulating your breathing to controlling your
muscles and sensing heat and cold.
There are three
types of nerves, or neurons, in the body:
Autonomic nerves. These nerves control the
involuntary or partially voluntary activities of your
body, including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion,
and temperature regulation.
Motor nerves. These nerves control your
movements and actions by passing information from your
brain and spinal cord to your muscles.
Sensory nerves. These nerves relay
information from your skin and muscles back to your
spinal cord and brain. The information is then processed
to let you feel pain and other sensations.
Nerve pain and nerve damage can be mild. But, because
nerves are essential to all you do, nerve pain and damage
can seriously affect your quality of life.
What Are the Symptoms of
Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage?
With nerve damage there can be a wide array of symptoms.
Which ones you may have depends on the location and type of
nerves that are affected. Damage can occur to nerves in your
brain and spinal cord. It can also occur in the peripheral
nerves, which are located throughout the rest of your body.
Autonomic nerve damage may produce the following
inability to sense chest pain, such as angina or
too much sweating (known as hyperhidrosis) or too
little sweating (known as anhidrosis)
dry eyes and mouth
Damage to motor nerves may produce the following
twitching, also known as fasciculation
Sensory nerve damage may produce the following symptoms:
tingling or prickling
problems with positional awareness
In some instances, people with nerve damage will have
symptoms that indicate damage to two, or even three,
different types of nerves. For instance, you might
experience weakness and burning of your legs at the same
What Causes Nerve Pain and
There are more than 100 different types of nerve damage.
The various types may have different symptoms and may
require different types of treatment.
More than 20 million Americans are afflicted with
peripheral nerve damage. This type of damage becomes
increasingly more common with age. In one out of every three
people with peripheral nerve damage, the damage comes from
diabetes. In another third, the cause of the nerve damage
While not an exhaustive list, the following are some of
the possible causes of nerve pain and nerve damage:
Autoimmune diseases . A variety of different
types of autoimmune diseases can produce symptoms of
nerve pain and nerve damage. These include: multiple
sclerosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare condition in
which the immune system attacks the peripheral nerves),
myasthenia gravis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel
Cancer . Cancer can cause nerve pain and
nerve damage in multiple ways. In some instances,
cancerous masses may push against or crush nerves. In
other cases, certain types of cancer may result in
nutritional deficiencies that affect nerve function.
Additionally, chemotherapy and radiation may produce
nerve pain and nerve damage in certain individuals.
Compression/trauma. Anything that results in
trauma or compression of nerves can result in nerve pain
and nerve damage. This includes pinched nerves in the
neck, crush injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Diabetes. About 50% of people with diabetes
suffer from nerve damage, which becomes more likely as
the disease progresses. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious
complication and may affect all three types of neurons.
Sensory nerves are most often affected, causing burning
or numbness. If you have diabetes and are experiencing
symptoms of nerve pain or nerve damage, you should
consult a medical professional as soon as possible.
Drug side effects and toxic substances.
Various substances that are taken into the body
intentionally or unintentionally have the ability to
cause nerve pain and nerve damage. These include
medications, such as chemotherapies for cancer and
certain drugs used to treat HIV. Toxic substances that
may be ingested accidentally, including lead, arsenic,
and mercury, may also cause damage to your nerves.
Motor neuron diseases. The motor neurons are
nerves in your brain and spinal column that communicate
with the muscles throughout your body. Diseases that
affect these nerves, including amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis, also called ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, can
result in progressively worsening nerve damage.
Nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies of
certain nutrients, including vitamins B6 and B12, may
produce symptoms of nerve pain and nerve damage,
including weakness or burning sensations. Nutritional
deficiencies that cause nerve damage may also result
from excessive alcohol ingestion or develop after
Infectious disease. Certain infectious
diseases have the ability to affect the nerves in your
body. These conditions include Lyme disease, the herpes
viruses, HIV, and hepatitis C.