If you suffer a nerve injury, you could hinder or sever the connection between your brain and your body. Perhaps more devastatingly, you can lose what connects your body to your environment.
Nerve damage can result from almost any type of accident. Even a minor car accident can result in permanent nerve injuries that disable you from working, performing household tasks, or even caring for your personal needs.
How Do Your Nerves Work?
Your nervous system controls your muscles and organs, carries sense perceptions, and even creates thoughts. They do this by connecting your brain to your head and body.
Cranial nerves connect your head and brain, carrying nerve signals that control your facial muscles, jaw, and throat. They also carry sensory signals to your brain from your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and facial skin.
The spinal cord connects your brain to your body below your neck and carries the signals that control your blood circulation, respiration, and digestion. It helps your brain control the muscles that move your legs, expand your chest, and lift your arms — it also carries sense perceptions of your environment to your brain.
To connect your brain to specific body regions, the spinal cord branches into nerve roots, which then further branch into peripheral nerves. The peripheral nerves run to specific nerve endings in your skin, organs, and muscles.
Doctors group these nerves into two systems:
- The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord
- The peripheral nervous system includes the cranial nerves, nerve roots, and peripheral nerves
When doctors talk about nerve damage, they usually mean a peripheral nerve injury. Your doctor might also call your injury “peripheral neuropathy.”
What Is Nerve Damage?
Nerve damage means that the cells of the nerve cannot carry signals correctly. Nerve signals are supposed to travel between nerve cells (also called neurons), but when nerve damage occurs, these signals do not travel correctly. This might mean that nerves lose signals or that they produce erroneous signals. Nerve damage can result from diseases or trauma. For example, exposure to toxic chemicals can alter the nerve cells and prevent them from signaling correctly.
Many types of trauma can also affect the function of your nerve cells, including:
A laceration can sever a nerve, and like electrical wires, nerves cannot carry a signal when they get cut. The nerve signal cannot jump the gap and will never reach the end of the nerve. As a result, the signal will get dropped.
Lacerations can happen in various accidents. You could suffer a severe cut in a workplace accident involving a tool or machine. In a car accident, glass shards could slice through the nerves in your arms, face, and legs.
Traction happens when nerves get pulled. Pulling on the nerves can tear the neurons or pull them too far apart to communicate.
One common form of traction-induced nerve damage happens when you fracture a bone. If the ends of the bone displace after the bone breaks, the nerves can get stretched and damaged.
Compression causes nerves to inflame, at which point they become irritated and swollen. More importantly, they misfire and send signals they should not. For example, a misfiring nerve could tell you that your leg hurts even though you did not injure it.
A common source of nerve compression comes from bulging or herniated discs. In an accident like a slip and fall, your vertebrae can squeeze and deform your discs. The deformed disc presses on the nerve roots next to your spine, prompting them to send incorrect signals.
Burns happen when a chemical reaction destroys your body cells.
Burn types include:
- Thermal burns from hot objects, liquids, or gasses
- Combustion burns when your flesh catches on fire
- Chemical burns from caustic substances
- Radiation burns from sunlight or other forms of radiation
- Electrical burns from an electrical current
Third-degree burns, also called full-thickness burns, destroy the top two layers of skin. However, the nerve endings in the middle layer of the skin also get destroyed. This creates an odd paradox where third-degree burns cause no pain due to the destruction of the nerve endings, whereas a milder first- or second-degree burn causes intense pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
Nerves carry three types of signals, and the symptoms your injury produces will depend on which nerves were damaged.
These signal types include:
Sensory signals carry perceptions from your sense organs to your brain.
Symptoms of sensory nerve damage include:
- Loss of vision, smell, hearing, or taste
- Sharp pain
- Dull aches
- Electric buzzing
- Loss of sensitivity to temperature or pressure
You might not experience these symptoms in the injured area. For example, if you have a herniated disc in your lower back, you might experience symptoms in your toes.
Motor signals control your muscles and produce voluntary responses.
Symptoms of motor nerve damage include:
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of dexterity
The peripheral nerves communicate with the head and body, so motor nerve damage could deprive you of your ability to make facial expressions, type, or even walk.
Autonomic signals control the involuntary responses of your muscles and organs.
Damage to these nerves can cause:
- Difficulty sweating or excess sweat
- Heart arrhythmia
- High or low blood pressure
- Irregular breathing
Controlling your bladder and bowel requires both autonomic and motor nerve signals. As a result, a motor or autonomic nerve injury can cause incontinence.
How Do You Get Compensation for Nerve Damage?
If your accident resulted from negligence by someone else, you could recover compensation for your nerve damage. Proving negligence can entitle you to compensation for your economic and non-economic losses.
These losses include your lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Nerve damage can affect almost every aspect of your life, particularly if you suffer from nerve pain.
To learn about the compensation you can seek for your nerve damage, contact our attorneys Anderson Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (817) 294-1900.