Nerve damage can affect your body in unusual ways. After a nerve injury, you might experience strange sensations in areas seemingly unconnected to your injury. You could also lose the ability to control large sections of your body.
As a result, you might require expensive treatment, like nerve graft surgery, to restore your disrupted nervous system. Or you might suffer temporary or permanent disabilities if doctors cannot treat your nerve damage.
Read on to learn about nerve damage and what you can do to pursue compensation from those who caused your nerve injury.
What Is the Peripheral Nervous System?
Your nervous system controls everything in your body, including the organs that function without your conscious thoughts. This system consists of three main parts: the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.
Your brain is the control center of your nervous system. It gathers information from your senses and sends out signals to control your body accordingly. If your eyes see a low branch, your brain moves your neck to duck your head.
Your spinal cord carries nerve signals from your brain to your body below your neck. Your nervous system uses a tree-and-branch structure to route nerve signals. In this system, your spinal cord is the trunk of the tree carrying the nerve signals to the correct branch.
Your peripheral nervous system includes all the nerves that branch off the brain or spinal cord. This system includes:
Your body has 12 nerves that connect your brain to your face and head. These nerves carry sensory signals between your brain and your eyes, ears, nose, and tongue. The cranial nerves also control your jaws and the top of your throat so you can swallow, breathe, and speak.
Your body has 31 pairs of spinal nerves and nerve roots. These nerves branch off the spinal cord at each vertebra. They carry the nerve signals to a region of the body. For example, a nerve root in your neck carries the signals to and from your right hand.
The peripheral nerves branch off of the spinal nerves and nerve roots. Returning to the earlier analogy, if the spinal cord is the trunk and the nerve roots are the branches, the peripheral nerves are twigs.
The peripheral nerves connect individual muscles and organs to the nervous system. They also provide nerve endings throughout your skin to detect pressure, texture, and temperature for your sense of touch.
How Does Nerve Damage Happen?
When doctors talk about nerve damage, the term refers to an injury to the peripheral nervous system. The term excludes injuries to the other two parts of your nervous system, namely brain damage and spinal cord injuries.
Nerves consist of nerve cells. A nerve cell, also called a neuron, has a long, thin body with a bulb and branches at each end. Nerve cells transmit nerve signals by using the bulb and branches to detect changes in an adjacent nerve cell and produce a similar change for detection by the next nerve cell.
Nerve cells must sit at a specific distance to detect and send nerve signals. If the gap between nerve cells is too great, they can’t communicate with each other.
When this happens, nerve signals get dropped or weakened as they pass through the injured nerve. As a result, you might lose some or all of the communication between the brain and the body part connected to the nerve.
This type of injury happens when nerves get severed or stretched. For example, if you break a bone in a slip and fall accident, the broken end of the bone could sever or stretch nerves near the fracture.
Injuries can also cause nerve cells to misfire. When this happens, nerve cells send signals when they’re not supposed to. This type of injury happens when pressure on the nerve causes the nerve to become irritated and inflamed.
After you herniate a disc in a car accident, the herniated disc could press on a nerve root and cause the nerve root to inflame and misfire.
What Are Some Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
Your nerves carry three types of signals. The symptoms you experience will depend on the location and type of nerve signal that gets disrupted.
Motor signals control your muscles to move your body. Even when the motions become automatic, like typing or throwing a ball, these signals require you to form a conscious thought in your brain to perform the action.
Damage to these nerves can cause:
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of dexterity
- Loss of coordination
Damage to motor nerves in the face might even cause slurred speech, disfigurement, or a loss of facial expressions.
Sensory nerves carry information from the sense organs to the brain.
Sensory nerve damage might produce:
- Loss of sensitivity to temperature
- Buzzing, throbbing, or burning sensations
- Loss of vision, hearing, taste, or smell
Loss of sensory perceptions can produce other injuries because your brain uses sensory information to control your organs and muscles. For example, if a nerve injury prevents you from sensing heat, you might burn yourself when you touch a hot stove.
Autonomic nerves control the involuntary systems. These nerves allow your brain to control your organs automatically without your conscious thought.
Autonomic nerve injuries can cause:
- Heart arrhythmia
- Rapid breathing
- Inability to sweat
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
These symptoms might seem so disconnected from your injury that you might not even associate them with your accident.
How Can You Get Compensated for Nerve Damage?
You can seek compensation for nerve damage resulting from someone else’s negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that someone failed to exercise reasonable care and you suffered an injury as a result.
If you prove negligence, you can get compensated for your economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages include money you spent on medical bills and money you lost by an inability to work.
Non-economic damages represent the diminished quality of life you experienced after your injury due to pain, mental anguish, and an inability to perform tasks.
Nerve damage can cause chronic or permanent symptoms. These symptoms, such as loss of dexterity, can impact your ability to work and care for yourself. To discuss the compensation you can seek for these and other effects of nerve damage, contact our law firm Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers at (727) 787-2500 for a free consultation.