There are billions of nerves in your body. Most of them, your peripheral nerves, are like branches of a tree that spread everywhere and transmit messages to the "trunk", to your brain and to your spinal cord. When all goes well, your brain receives the information it needs to move your muscles, recognize the pain and keep your internal organs in good working order. But when the peripheral nerves are damaged, that's another story: Walking can get tough, you may experience a relentless pain, or you could end up with a serious injury because you had no idea of the heat of this stove.
An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral nerve damage, AKA neuropathy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Diabetes is the number one cause. Bad luck [meaning you inherited an anatomical defect] is number 2. Repetitive motion and Lyme disease follow," says Andrew Elkwood, MD, a surgeon specializing in nerve reconstruction at the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in New York and New York.
Other causes include sudden trauma (such as a car accident), vitamin deficiencies, high exposure to toxins (including alcohol, anticancer drugs, lead, mercury and alcohol). Arsenic) and autoimmune diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV, Epstein-Barr, rheumatoid arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Meanwhile, about 30% to 40% of neuropathy cases are "idiopathic," meaning that there is no known cause, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The good news is that nerve damage usually develops slowly, says Isha Gupta, MD, a neurologist at IGEA Brain and Spine in New York and New Jersey. This means that you may be able to treat it before it gets worse, but getting the right diagnosis is not always easy. Your best shot? Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms.