Damaged nerve fibers can lead to chronic pain. There are many different causes of nerve damage, and they involve different symptoms and require different types of treatment. Peripheral nerve damage is very common, affecting millions of Americans. In fact, the risk of this increases with age and is often caused by conditions including diabetes. For many people, however, the cause of damage is unknown. Doctors say that nearly half of all people who suffer nerve damage and the resulting pain have diabetic neuropathy. Nerve damage is more likely as the diabetes progresses. The sensory nerves are most often affected in persons with diabetes, resulting in numbness and burning sensations. Other possible causes of nerve damage are: injuries, cancer, nutritional deficiencies, cancer, autoimmune deficiencies, trauma, motor neuron diseases (Lou Gehrig’s disease), infectious diseases, drug side effects and the ingesting of toxic substances.
The central nervous system is involved in some way in nearly every function of the body. There are three different types of nerves in the body – autonomic nerves, motor nerves and sensory nerves. Autonomic nerves control involuntary or partially voluntary processes in the body including digestion, heart rate, blood pressure and regulation of temperature. Damage to these nerves can cause people to fail to recognize the signs of a heart attack. Other symptoms include sexual dysfunction, excessive sweating, too little sweating, dry eyes and mouth, constipation, bladder dysfunction and lightheadedness. Motor nerves control actions and movements, passing information to muscles from the brain and spinal cord. Damaged motor nerves can cause weakness, paralysis, twitching and muscle atrophy. Sensory nerves relay information from the skin and muscles to the brain and spinal cord. This is what enables you to feel pain and other sensations such as hot and cold. Sensory nerve damage can lead to pain, numbness, sensitivity, burning, tickling and prickling. It is possible for people to feel the effects of damage to more than one type of nerve.
Treating nerve pain does not always bring a successful outcome. There are treatments that can effectively reduce symptoms, though a cure is not always possible. People with chronic pain and those who suspect nerve damage need to talk to a doctor immediately because these issues progress over time. Doctors may need to run tests to determine what medical issues are at play. They will want to treat the underlying conditions that contribute to the pain. This can mean finding ways to regulate blood sugar for people with diabetes. Other treatments can include prescribing medications for autoimmune conditions, physical therapy, surgery, correcting nutritional deficiencies or changing medications if they are behind the pain. Medications including pain relievers, antidepressants and certain anti-seizure drugs can be prescribed to treat the pain. In addition, some physicians and pain management specialists advocate alternative therapies such as biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis and acupuncture for people needing relief.