Understanding How Neuropathy Affects Different Types of Nerves

Understanding How Neuropathy Affects Different Types of Nerves

Did you know there are hundreds of nerves in the human body? Nerves 一 which are bundles of fibers that send messages to and from your brain 一 fall into two categories: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Your peripheral nervous system refers to nerves that are outside of your spinal column and brain. This system is important because it helps relay messages from various parts of your body, such as your legs or hands, to your brain.

Unfortunately, damage to this system 一 called peripheral neuropathy 一 is a common condition affecting more than 20 million Americans. As common as it is, the condition can affect people differently, depending on which nerves are affected.

In this article, Brenton Wynn, MD discusses how neuropathy affects different nerves and how our specialists can help you manage the discomfort associated with the condition.

The function and dysfunction of your peripheral nervous system

Have you ever stepped outside barefoot only to quickly realize the concrete was too hot? The almost instantaneous recognition of “hot concrete” happened because the nerves in your feet told your brain that the ground was too hot. This is just one example of messages sent via your peripheral nervous system. 

Your peripheral nervous system also plays a role in muscle contraction and how your heart beats, how your immune system functions, and even the proper functioning of your digestive system. This means that when the nerves in your peripheral nervous system malfunction, you can see three types of disruption:

Which type of disruption you experience depends on which type of nerve is compromised.

How neuropathy affects different types of nerves

Your peripheral nervous system contains motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves.

Motor nerves

As the name suggests, your motor nerves control fine motor movements and gross motor skills. This includes all muscles that are under your conscious control, including the muscles you use to walk, run, write, or talk. 

If your motor nerves are damaged, you’re most likely to experience muscle weakness, cramps, muscle twitches, and muscle atrophy.

Sensory nerves

Sensory nerves relay messages about your five senses. Your sensory nerves can help you experience the soft feeling of a blanket, the cold sensation of an icy drink, or the sting of a paper cut. 

Neuropathy can cause many different symptoms if your sensory nerves are damaged:

Damage to your sensory nerves can be frustrating and overwhelming. For those with this type of damage, even the gentle drape of a bedsheet can cause blinding pain.

Autonomic nerves

While your motor nerves affect movements you control, your autonomic nerves control functions that you don’t control. This includes all body functions that your body performs without your conscious effort: digesting food, pumping heart, breathing, etc. 

Damage to these nerves can affect different body symptoms. You might experience excess sweating, heat intolerance, and gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Getting relief from peripheral neuropathy

Here at Wynn Over Pain, we know that damage to any of your nerves can affect your quality of life. Before we embark on a treatment plan, it’s important to know which nerves are damaged. A nerve conduction study measures the electrical signals in your muscles and nerves.

After reviewing the results of your nerve conduction study, performing a physical exam, and reviewing your medical history, Dr. Wynn creates a customized pain-management plan that may consist of medication, physical therapy, and/or pain relief injections. You may also benefit from managing any underlying condition, such as diabetes, that contributes to nerve damage.

If you’re dealing with the symptoms of neuropathy 一 whether that’s burning, stinging pain, tingling, or numbness 一 let our pain-management specialists help you find relief. Call our National City, California, office to book an appointment. You can also use our online scheduling tool and get started today.

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