Nerve damage isn’t as simple as not being able to feel. It also doesn’t only present as pain. Nerves do many different tasks, which is why nerve damage shows up in many different ways.
When we think about the nerves, it’s easy to first think of sensation and pain. However, they do many tasks in the body that we don’t think about every day.
Nerves control involuntary functions that we often can’t feel. They control your blood pressure, dilate your pupils, manage digestion, and more.
Why is this important? It’s important because nerve damage can occur in many ways, but is easily ignored. It’s not always as straightforward as numbness or pain in nerves. It can also get incorrectly blamed on other things, like getting older.
Here are 6 neuropathic symptoms that may reflect damaged nerves:
- You’re not completing your normal activities as easily.1
- You’re regularly dropping items. You may feel like you keep “losing your grip” on objects.
- You’re not able to pick things up as easily. Things that used to feel straightforward to pick up are now more challenging. It may feel like things won’t “stay put.”
- You’re not able to carry heavy objects easily. Heavier items, like a gallon of milk, may feel even heavier. These objects might slip from your grip more often.
- You’re having more difficulty getting dressed. With nerve damage, being able to button, tie, or zip up clothes becomes even harder.
- You’re struggling to open, close, and manipulate small objects. Jars, lids, and small buttons take extra focus to work with.
- You’re having different sensations in your hands and feet.2
- You have numbness and tingling in your fingers and toes. This can be as gentle as feeling a “prickling” to as painful as feeling “pins and needles.”
- You feel like you’re wearing a tight sock or gloves. This uncomfortable sensation can also feel like a band is tightly tied around your wrists or ankles.
- You feel a buzzing in your hands and/or feet. Unlike the pins and needles sensation, this feels like tiny electric shocks.
- You get sharp pains in your extremities. These are brief but intense pains that feel like being stuck with a needle or touched with a hot poker.
- Your hands and feet are more sensitive. Normal sensations that didn’t bother you before are now more painful. Cold air and surfaces are common irritants.
- You’re not having regular secretions.3
- You struggle with dry mouth. You may have found yourself sucking on hard candy, chewing gum, or drinking more to relieve the discomfort.
- You have dry eyes. If you struggle with this, you may have had trouble watching tv, reading, or tolerating dry rooms. You may have found yourself blinking more frequently and using eye drops.
- You’re consistently sweating much more than you’re used to. It’s especially concerning when you sweat profusely when you’re cold or at rest.
- You’re suddenly not sweating, or sweating much less. Like the previous symptom, it’s concerning if you’re not sweating when you’re hot or just heavily exercised.
- Your bowel, bladder, and/or sexual health are worse.4,2
- You’re dealing with frequent constipation. Sharp abdominal pain, small loose stools, and bowel movement infrequency are tell-tale signs of constipation.
- You’re struggling with bladder dysfunction. Nerve damage can cause frequency (needing to urinate more often), stress incontinence (urinating with laughing, sneezing, or bearing down), or total incontinence.
- You have increasing sexual dysfunction. Lowered sex drive, erectile dysfunction (for males), and decreased lubrication (for females) are often neurological.
- You’re not feeling normally uncomfortable sensations.5
- You’re stepping on things but not realizing it. You may have noticed objects in your shoe or stuck in your foot that you didn’t see until later. Foot neuropathy (nerve damage in the foot) is one of the most common ways people develop foot ulcers.
- You can’t feel chest pain. This symptom is extremely troublesome, as people often ignore symptoms of angina and heart attack when it doesn’t include pain.
- You developed pressure sores from not shifting positions. Pain is a prime tool the body uses to let us know we need to change positions to prevent skin breakdown. If that alarm isn’t there, you may experience sores on your sacrum, under the buttocks, in skin folds, and other vulnerable areas.
- You’re having unexplained muscle loss or movement.6
- You’re having muscle twitching and spasms. Nerve damage can prevent a muscle from relaxing.
- You’re having unexplained muscle atrophy. Muscle typically only wastes away when it’s not used as much. This can point to the body not being able to move like it used to.
- Your range-of-motion has gotten worse. Nerve pain in the shoulder, pain in the wrists, and hip pain from sciatica are common offenders. The pain can come with tightness, which further limits your motion range.
What can cause nerve damage?
While many different health problems can cause nerve damage, there are several common culprits.
- Diabetes. Up to 70% of diabetics have some kind of nerve damage.
- Injury. It can stretch, shift, and crush nerves, inducing pain, and damage. Back and joint injuries can cause a bone or cartilage to pinch a nearby nerve.
- Pressure from surrounding tissues can crush nerves. For example, pain from sciatica comes from pressure caused by a muscle or bone. Morton’s neuroma occurs when one of the foot’s nerves gets crushed by thickened tissue. Autoimmune diseases can compress nerves with chronic swelling.
- Some medications and poisons. Chemotherapy, radiation, some antibiotics, heavy metals, and more can temporarily or permanently damage nerves.
We specialize in nerve issues
Nerve damage often comes in clusters. Many of the symptoms discussed in this article can represent other problems. However, when you experience a handful, it’s more likely you’re having nerve problems.
If you have signs of nerve damage, we recommend seeing a doctor soon. Nerve problems can progress, and some can become irreversible if not treated. Patients frequently develop secondary problems as their body tries to accommodate the nerve problems.
Your nerve health is our priority. If you have questions about what can be done for your nerve damage, give us a call at 702-666-0463.