Nerve damage can happen in almost any accident. Trauma to your joints and soft tissue can result in torn or pinched nerves.
Nerve injuries can produce a range of symptoms. A spinal cord injury can leave you paralyzed. A pinched nerve root or peripheral nerve can cause pain, tingling, and a loss of dexterity.
No matter the cause, nerve damage can impact your life significantly.
How Does Nerve Damage Happen?
The nervous system includes your brain, cranial nerves, spinal cord, nerve roots, and peripheral nerves. Your brain connects to your spinal cord and cranial nerves. The cranial nerves carry signals for your head, while the spinal cord carries nerve signals for your body.
As your spinal cord runs along your back, it branches out into nerve roots. The nerve roots carry all of the signals for an entire body region or body part.
The nerve roots further branch out into peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves connect to specific muscles or organs.
The nervous system carries sensory signals from your body to your brain. It also carries control signals from your brain back out to your muscles and organs.
Nerves are made of neurons. These nerve cells communicate with each other using electrical signals. Severed nerves lose their ability to carry nerve signals. When a nerve gets severed, you may experience paralysis or lose sensation in the area that’s controlled by the nerve.
A nerve that gets pinched or rubbed by bones or soft tissue can become inflamed over time. This will cause the nerve to produce pain signals. It can also interfere with the nerve’s ability to transmit nerve signals, causing it to misfire.
What are the Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
The location of your symptoms will depend on where the nerve damage occurs. Nerve damage in the spinal cord can affect large body regions or even your entire body.
For example, a severed spinal cord in your neck may cause quadriplegia while a severed spinal cord in your back may cause paraplegia.
Damage to a nerve root will affect a body part or region. Damage to peripheral nerves will affect specific muscle groups and organs.
Your symptoms will likely depend on which nerves were injured and which signals were disrupted. Nerves carry three types of signals. These include:
Autonomic signals control your involuntary responses. Some systems that are controlled by your brain with autonomic signals include:
- Body temperature
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Sexual arousal
When nerve damage disrupts autonomic signals, you may experience:
- High or low blood pressure
- Heart arrhythmia
- Hot flashes or chills
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Sexual dysfunction
When you experience these symptoms, you might not immediately connect them to a nerve injury. This makes these types of nerve injuries especially difficult to diagnose.
Your brain uses motor signals to control your muscles. These muscles help your body move. They also help you speak, maintain your balance, and empty your bladder and bowel appropriately.
Damage to the nerves that carry motor signals can cause:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of dexterity
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Muscle spasms and tremors
Again, you might not automatically associate these symptoms with a nerve injury. After an accident, you might have many muscles and joints that feel weak and experience muscle spasms. This can mask the signs of your nerve damage.
Sensory signals provide information to the brain about your body and environment. These sensory signals come from your skin, muscles, and sense organs.
Nerve damage that disrupts sensory signals can cause symptoms, such as:
- Loss of sensitivity to hot or cold
- Blurred vision
- Loss of balance
Peripheral neuropathy happens when you suffer nerve damage in your peripheral nerves. This type of nerve damage can cause tingling or numbness in your legs, feet, hands, or other body parts served by the damaged nerves.
What is the Treatment Process for Nerve Damage?
Doctors cannot reattach severed nerves. However, they can sometimes relieve the pressure on pinched or irritated nerves. For example, pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors can treat carpal tunnel by cutting the ligament that’s pressing on the median nerve.
Similarly, pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root can come from a herniated disc. Doctors can remove the disc and fuse the surrounding vertebrae to relieve some of the pressure.
Doctors can also use non-surgical options. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve symptoms of minor nerve damage.
What Are the Primary Risk Factors for Nerve Damage?
Some diseases, including diabetes and multiple sclerosis, can increase your risk of nerve damage. Nutritional deficiencies can also make you susceptible to nerve damage.
Other risk factors for nerve damage include:
Exposure to toxic substances like lead, arsenic, mercury, solvents, and pesticides can cause nerve damage.
Children have a high risk of nerve damage from toxic exposures in their homes. Toxic exposure can inhibit the development of children’s brains and nervous systems.
Employees can suffer exposure to toxins at work. Factory workers, miners, and farmers are often exposed to solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides that can cause nerve damage.
Workplace accidents can lead to nerve damage. Falling objects can fracture vertebrae or compress discs. Machinery can tear your soft tissue and sever nerves. Repetitive actions like lifting, walking, and typing can irritate and inflame nerves.
Car accidents create a substantial risk of nerve damage. As your seat belt restrains you, your spine hyperextends. When your car comes to a stop, your spine rebounds and compresses.
This hyperextension and compression of your spine can damage or dislocate your vertebrae and discs. As a result, your spinal cord and nerve roots branching off your spinal cord can get pinched or severed.
What Compensation Can I Seek for Nerve Damage?
When you suffer nerve damage, you might have substantial losses. If someone else is responsible for your nerve damage, you can seek compensation for your medical expenses and lost income.
Nerve damage often requires ongoing medication and may require expensive surgery. Nerve damage can also cause long-term symptoms that interfere with your ability to work.
Nerve damage can also diminish your quality of life. You can seek pain and suffering damages for these non-economic losses.
Contact an Oklahoma City Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
If you suffered nerve damage in an accident caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional act, you may be entitled to seek damages. To discuss the injury compensation you can pursue for your nerve damage, contact McGuire Law Firm at (405) 513-5658 to schedule a free consultation with an Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer.