Damage to a nerve outside the brain or spinal cord as a result of physical injury
Any of the peripheral nerves, which connect the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body, may be damaged by physical injury. This damage may cause weakness and loss of sensation in the part of the body that the nerve supplies. A peripheral nerve may be partially or completely severed, or it may be compressed. Damage may not be permanent because peripheral nerves can regenerate if they are not completely cut.
The part of the body affected depends on which peripheral nerve is damaged. Symptoms usually include:
Tingling and numbness.
Muscle weakness or paralysis.
Eventually, muscle wasting.
The severity of the symptoms depends on whether the nerve is damaged or completely severed.
Your doctor will check for loss of sensation, test your reflexes, and assess the strength of your muscles. You may also have nerve and muscle electrical tests, in which the function of the affected nerve is tested to assess how severely it has been damaged.
Treatment is often unnecessary if a peripheral nerve is only compressed or partially severed. After a few weeks, nerve and muscle tests may be repeated to see if there has been an improvement in your condition. If the nerve is totally severed, it cannot regenerate by itself, and you may be offered microsurgery to try to repair it. After the operation, you may have physiotherapy to help to regain lost muscle strength and coordination. However, even with the most skilled surgery, full recovery may not be possible, and you may continue to have symptoms.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.