Signs Of Nerve Damage In Hand
The nervous system controls every function of your body – from movement, to digestion, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and hormone production. It also regulates our sense of touch and proprioception, or awareness of where our limbs are located within space (the position and orientation of our arms, legs, torso and head). The peripheral nervous system is made up of two types of nerve cells called sensory neurons and motor neurons. Motor neurons send messages via electrical impulses to muscles involved with movement. When we contract a muscle it sends an impulse which tells the brain what kind of message needs to be carried out next. This can happen with or without any conscious thought on our part. If you have ever had surgery or been in an accident then you know how important this process is. Without the ability to move, we would not survive.
Sensory neurons pick up information about the environment around us through receptors. These sensors respond when something happens to them; for example, they might detect heat, cold, light, sound, vibrations, pressure or pain. Because these functions are so critical to survival, the central nervous system has developed ways to protect itself. For instance, a protective sheath called myelin coats each neuron as it leaves the spinal cord. Myelin acts like insulation protecting the neuron’s axon from injury. However, if there is too much damage to the myelin coating, the axons underneath may die. Axonal degeneration causes loss of sensation, such as feeling hot or being unable to feel pain.
When a person experiences trauma, such as a car accident, firework explosion or other physical event, he or she will experience both acute and delayed effects. The acute effect is the immediate response to the traumatic event while delayed refers to the long-term consequences after the initial shock has passed. Acute reactions usually last less than six weeks and are milder than those experienced later, but all responses should be taken seriously.
Delayed effects often appear months or years following the original incident. They range from minor to severe. Some examples are:
· Weakness, fatigue and reduced coordination caused by compression of motor fibers.
· Trouble controlling one’s emotions due to damaged frontal lobes.
· Memory impairment due to lesions in the hippocampus.
· Depression because of damage to the limbic system.
· Headaches, dizziness and nausea resulting from lesions in the cerebellum.
Because different parts of the nervous system work together to perform complex tasks, injury to only one area can have devastating results. When the brain is injured during stroke, meningitis or encephalitis, a portion of the central nervous system can become paralyzed and no longer carry out its normal function. A similar thing can occur when the spinal cord becomes injured. Either way, the result is permanent disability.
Nerves are susceptible to injury and disease just like any other tissue. Diseases such as diabetes, syphilis, herpes simplex virus, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS can destroy the integrity of the nervous system. Diabetes damages the tiny capillaries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerves, destroying their health. Infection by certain viruses, particularly herpesvirus, can lead to inflammation and scarring at the site of infection causing nerve damage. Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease affecting the central nervous system. It destroys the fatty covering surrounding the nerves leading to poor signaling between the nerves and the brain. Many people who have suffered strokes suffer from speech difficulties, including slurred speech, stuttering and difficulty pronouncing words. One side of the body may become weaker than the other, making everyday activities difficult.
Injuries to the peripheral nerves such as frost bite, radiation treatment and chemical exposure can also affect nerve function. Any condition that affects circulation to the extremities can also impact nerve function. Examples include Raynaud’s syndrome, Buerger’s disease, scleroderma and sickle cell anemia.
If you think you have sustained a peripheral nerve injury, consult a physician immediately. The sooner you seek medical attention, the better chance you have of preventing further complications. Afterward, continue monitoring your symptoms regularly for changes. Although some nerve injuries heal themselves over time, others require surgical intervention. Treatment depends largely on the severity and type of nerve affected.
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