Nerve Damage Causes Numbness
Medically reviewed and written by Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. — April 12th, 2021
Yes, nerve damage causes numbness, but the term nerve damage is nonspecific and terrible.
More Than 1 Type of Nerve Damage?
Yes 100%. The easiest way to think of nerve damage without compromising the neuroscience behind nerve physiology is in the following three categories:
- nerve is totally cut = total nerve damage = this is bad
- nerve damage is to the nerve support structure = this can heal, maybe
- nerve damage is to the nerve itself, but not a full transection of the nerve = this is bad, but not as bad cutting the nerve fully
So Which Kind Can I Ignore?
None, really. The first kind needs surgery, pretty much always, if surgery is possible. The other two, are “progressive” most of the time. So, with these types, figuring out the reason why it is happening is the key. Once we get the reason, maybe we can treat it and stop it. But sometimes, there isn’t a reason. This where the word “idiopathic” comes in. This word is used to describe the nerve damage when all testing has not found a cause/explanation for the damage.
When Do I get Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)?
To understand this, we first have to agree on some common words/nomenclature.
- Nerve Damage = Neuropathy.
- Three flavors of nerve damage = 3 categories of Neuropathy.
- First category = total nerve damage = transection neuropathy = needs surgery.
- Second category = nerve support structure damage = demyelinating neuropathy = find the cause and treat it. This is where IVIG comes in. Sometimes it is helpful and can treat the nerve damage.
- Third Category = nerve itself is partly damage = Axonal Neuropathy = find the cause and treat it.
What is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)?
GBS, simply put is a demyelinating neuropathy most of the time = damage of the nerve support structure.
Key Point 1: When it comes to nerve damage, the gameplan should be to evaluate and treat it as early as possible. This is because of the 3 flavors of nerve damage (above), 2 are progressive. This means, every minute we waste, the nerve damage is progressing and causing permanent injury to the nervous system, albeit super slowly. The goal should be to find the cause of the process and to treat it soon as possible to prevent long term nerve damage.
Key Point 2: As stated above, sometimes the nerve damage doesn’t have a clear cause that can be treated. In this type of case, doing alternative treatments to improve nerve health and blood circulation overall may help slow down the nerve damage.
So, The Numbness is Always Nerve Damage?
Absolutely not. Numbness can also result from more nefarious diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Sensory Seizures, and so on.
Key Point 3: Do not ignore the numbness, particularly if it comes and goes.