Overview

Your peripheral nerves are the links between your brain and spinal cord and the rest of your body. Peripheral nerves are fragile and easily damaged.

A nerve injury can affect your brain's ability to communicate with your muscles and organs. Damage to the peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy.

Stretching or pressing on a nerve can cause injury. The nerves also may be damaged as a result of other health conditions that affect the nerves, such as diabetes or Guillain-Barre syndrome.

In carpal tunnel syndrome, pressure on the median nerve in the wrist causes damage. Or the nerves may be crushed, cut or damaged in an accident such as a sports injury or a car crash.

Peripheral nerve injuries may be mild or severe. Nerves are made of fibers called axons, which are surrounded by tissues that act like insulation.

Sometimes in a peripheral nerve injury, either the fibers or the insulation are damaged. These injuries are more likely to heal.

In more-severe peripheral nerve injuries both the fibers and the insulation are damaged, and the nerve may be completely cut. These types of injuries are very difficult to treat and recovery may not be possible.

For example, if you feel tingling or numbness or develop weakness in your leg, arm, shoulder or hand, you may have injured one or more nerves in an accident. You may also experience similar symptoms if a nerve is being compressed due to factors such as a narrow passageway, tumor or other diseases.

Severe peripheral nerve injuries may cause total loss of feeling to the area where the nerve is damaged.

It's important to get medical care for a peripheral nerve injury as soon as possible because nerve tissue sometimes can be repaired. Early diagnosis and treatment in some cases can prevent complications and permanent injury.