Injuries such as burns or broken bones cause nerve damage. Sometimes high blood pressure and diabetes, if left untreated, cause nerve damage throughout the body. Symptoms of nerve damage include pain or tingling in the affected area, weakness and numbness. If the nerves are damaged in organs or bodily systems, rather than skin or limbs, the digestive system, blood pressure and breathing could be affected. Treating the underlying medical conditions that cause the nerve damage prevents it from spreading and sometimes reverses its effects. Medications repair nerve damage and relieve the symptoms, while physical therapy helps the patient regain coordination and strength. In some cases, surgery restores the damaged nerves.
Medical Causes of Nerve Damage
Keep blood pressure levels below 120 systolic (top number) and 80 diastolic (bottom number). High blood pressure puts a patient at risk for stroke or ischemic (blood vessel) changes in the brain, resulting in nerve problems, tingling, numbness and weakness throughout the body. Diabetic neuropathy and ischemic changes in the brain cause the majority of medically induced nerve damage.
Control diabetes. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of diabetics will suffer from diabetic neuropathy, the widespread nerve damage caused by uncontrolled blood-glucose levels. Keep blood-glucose levels between 80 and 120 by taking insulin on time. Eat a low-glucose diet and maintain a healthy body weight to prevent diabetic neuropathy and improve nerve damage caused by unregulated high levels of glucose.
Take duloxetine or pregabalin as directed by a doctor. The FDA approved these two medications to improve nerve damage specifically caused by diabetic neuropathy.
Nerve Damage from Injuries
Promote proper healing of wounds and injuries. Rest and treat the injured skin as directed. In some cases, nerve damage caused by a wound reverses itself as the wound heals. Doctors delay surgery and other treatment until the wound has healed.
Consider surgery. In some cases, nerve damage from injuries can be repaired by reconnecting the disconnected ends of the nerve. In other cases, doctors use a donor nerve to graft onto the damaged end and the nerve grows over, reconnecting itself and repairing the damage over time. Experiencing uncomfortable tingling or pain during this time is common and signals the nerve is healing.
Take antidepressants as directed by your doctor. Antidepressants work in the body to relieve nerve pain, and taking them to improve nerve damage does not necessarily mean you are depressed.
Perform exercises and physical therapy as directed by your doctor. Physical therapy improves strength and coordination in patients who cannot perform normal tasks due to nerve damage. Alternating periods of exercise and rest to the affected area after surgery promotes nerve growth and teaches the patient how best to use the injured body part. Walk on a treadmill to increase strength and stamina and improve sensation in lower limbs. Use free weights to exercise upper limbs once cleared by a doctor.
Place a bed cradle at the end of your bed to protect nerve-damaged feet and legs. A bed cradle is a metal structure that props up sheets and blankets to keep them from irritating feet and legs that tingle and hurt from nerve damage.
Sometimes nerve damage cannot be repaired or improved. When nerve damage is permanent, seek physical rehabilitation and psychological counseling to help deal with new limitations. Because decreased sensation is a result of nerve damage, be diligent about checking your body for wounds and infections. Proactive wound care prevents permanent tissue damage from causing gangrene and amputation.