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Peripheral Nerve Disorders

What are peripheral nerves?

Nerves are like wires that carry messages back and forth between your brain and your body. Your peripheral nerves branch off from your brain and spinal cord and connect to all parts of your body, including your muscles and organs. Peripheral nerves carry messages from your brain that control your movement, breathing, heartbeat, digestion, and more. They also carry messages from your body to your brain, so you can feel things, such as pain, heat, and cold.

What are peripheral nerve disorders?

Peripheral nerve disorders happen when one or more peripheral nerves are damaged. Damaged nerves may not carry messages correctly, or they may not work at all. As a result, you may have pain, trouble walking, or a variety of other problems, depending on which nerves are involved.

Peripheral nerve disorders are very common. There are more than 100 different types.

What causes peripheral nerve disorders?

Many things can damage nerves and lead to peripheral nerve disorders:

  • Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral nerve disorders. Most people with diabetes will develop diabetic nerve problems.
  • Physical injury (trauma) that stretches, crushes, squeezes, cuts, or puts pressure on one or more nerves. Some examples of peripheral nerve disorders from physical injury include complex regional pain syndrome and brachial plexus injuries.
  • Health conditions, including:
    • Certain cancers and their treatment (chemotherapy and radiation therapy).
    • Infections, such as HIV and Lyme disease.
    • Problems with blood or blood vessels.
    • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
    • Kidney or liver disease.
  • Certain medicines.
  • Contact with certain toxic substances, such as lead or mercury.
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and smoking.
  • Vitamin imbalances, especially a lack of vitamin B12.
  • Your genes, including changes in your genes or conditions that you inherit from your parents, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

In certain cases, the cause of peripheral nerve disorder is not known.

What are the symptoms of peripheral nerve disorders?

The symptoms of peripheral nerve disorders depend on which nerves are affected, what is causing the damage, and how serious it is:

Types of nervesPossible symptoms of nerve damageMotor nerves control your muscles and all your movement, such as walking, talking, and using your hands.
  • Weak or aching muscles
  • Problems with balance, walking, or using your arms and hands
  • Cramps or twitching muscles
  • Muscle shrinking
Sensory nerves carry messages to your brain from your senses, including touch, hot and cold, and pain.
  • Tingling, numbness, or pain often in the hands and feet
  • Not being able to feel heat, cold, or pain, such as a cut on your foot
  • Pain from even light touch
Autonomic nerves send messages to your organs to control breathing, digestion, and other body functions that happen without thinking about them.
  • A heartbeat that's too fast or too slow
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Sweating too much or too little
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Problems with urination or sexual function

Symptoms may range from mild to very strong. They may develop quickly over days or slowly over months and years. But they are rarely life-threatening.

How are peripheral nerve disorders diagnosed?

To find out if you have a peripheral nerve disorder, your provider will:

  • Ask about your medical history
  • Ask about your family health history
  • Do a physical exam
  • Order tests, which may include:
    • Blood tests
    • Genetic tests
    • Nerve tests that measure:
      • Electrical activity in your nerves and muscles
      • How well your autonomic nerves are working
    • A biopsy of nerve or skin tissue
    • CT or MRI scan to see what may be pressing on your nerves
What are the treatments for peripheral nerve disorders?

It's important to treat any conditions that are causing nerve damage. In certain cases, that will allow your nerves to heal over time.

Treatment for symptoms depends on the type of peripheral nerve disorder you have, where it is, and how severe. Treatment options include:

  • Braces or splints
  • Over-the-counter patches and skin creams
  • Prescription medicines
  • Non-drug pain management, such as electrical stimulation or relaxation therapy
  • Surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve
Can peripheral nerve disorders be prevented?

You can help prevent peripheral nerve disorders by:

  • Managing health conditions that may cause nerve damage, especially diabetes
  • Preventing falls and accidents
  • Avoiding toxic substances
  • Being careful to avoid repeated motions and body positions that press on your nerves
  • Eating a balanced diet, exercising, limiting alcohol, and not smoking

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections

What is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus. It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But it can cause serious lung infections, especially in infants, older adults, and people with serious medical problems.

How is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) spread?

RSV spreads from person to person through:

  • The air by coughing and sneezing
  • Direct contact, such as kissing the face of a child who has RSV
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

People who have an RSV infection are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. But sometimes infants and people with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus for as long as 4 weeks.

Who is at risk for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections?

RSV can affect people of all ages. But it is very common in small children; nearly all children become infected with RSV by age 2. In the United States, RSV infections usually occur during RSV season, which is usually fall through spring.

Certain people are at higher risk of having a severe RSV infection:

  • Infants
  • Older adults, especially those ages 65 and older
  • People with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease
  • People with weakened immune systems
What are the symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections?

The symptoms of RSV infection usually start about 4 to 6 days after infection. They include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

These symptoms usually appear in stages instead of all at once. In very young infants, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and trouble breathing.

RSV can also cause more severe infections, especially in people at high risk. These infections include bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs.

How are respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections diagnosed?

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, including asking about symptoms.
  • A physical exam.
  • A lab test of nasal fluid or another respiratory specimen to check for RSV. This is usually done for people with severe infection.
  • Tests to check for complications in people with severe infection. The tests may include a chest x-ray and blood and urine tests.
What are the treatments for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections?

There is no specific treatment for RSV infection. Most infections go away on their own in a week or two. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with the fever and pain. However, do not give aspirin to children. And do not give cough medicine to children under four. It is also important to get enough fluids to prevent dehydration.

Some people with severe infection may need to be hospitalized. There, they might get oxygen, a breathing tube, or a ventilator.

Can respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections be prevented?

There are some vaccines to protect against RVS illness. Two of them are for people ages 60 and older. If you are in this age group, talk to your provider about whether an RSV vaccine would be right for you.

There is also a vaccine is for pregnant people. It is given between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. It helps protect their newborn babies from RSV illness for the first 6 months of life.

There are two medicines to help prevent severe RSV illness in babies and young children. These medicines may help prevent severe RSV illness, but they can't cure or treat children who already have RSV. And they cannot prevent an RSV infection. Both medicines are given by injections (shots).

One medicine is given to infants who are younger than 8 months during their first RSV season. This includes infants who are born during RSV season. This medicine may also be given to some children between the ages of 8 and 19 months who are at high risk for severe RSV illness. For example, they might be at high risk because they:

  • Were born prematurely
  • Have congenital heart disease
  • Have chronic lung disease
  • Have a weakened immune system

The other medicine is given monthly during RSV season. It is for children under 24 months of age who are at high risk for severe RSV illness.

There are also some steps you can take to lower your risk of getting or spreading an RSV infection, including:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoiding touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others if you are sick or they are sick
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that you frequently touch
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Then throw away the tissue and wash your hands
  • Staying home when sick

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Restless Legs

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes a powerful urge to move your legs. Your legs become uncomfortable when you are lying down or sitting. Some people describe it as a creeping, crawling, tingling, or burning sensation. Moving makes your legs feel better, but not for long. RLS can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.

In most cases, there is no known cause for RLS. In other cases, RLS is caused by a disease or condition, such as anemia or pregnancy. Some medicines can also cause temporary RLS. Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol may make symptoms worse.

Lifestyle changes, such as regular sleep habits, relaxation techniques, and moderate exercise during the day can help. If those don't work, medicines may reduce the symptoms of RLS.

Most people with RLS also have a condition called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). PLMD is a condition in which a person's legs twitch or jerk uncontrollably, usually during sleep. PLMD and RLS can also affect the arms.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Seizures are symptoms of a brain problem. They happen because of sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. When people think of seizures, they often think of convulsions in which a person's body shakes rapidly and uncontrollably. Not all seizures cause convulsions. There are many types of seizures and some have mild symptoms. Seizures fall into two main groups. Focal seizures, also called partial seizures, happen in just one part of the brain. Generalized seizures are a result of abnormal activity on both sides of the brain.

Most seizures last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes and do not cause lasting harm. However, it is a medical emergency if seizures last longer than 5 minutes or if a person has many seizures and does not wake up between them. Seizures can have many causes, including medicines, high fevers, head injuries and certain diseases. People who have recurring seizures due to a brain disorder have epilepsy.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Tailbone Disorders

The tailbone is the small bone at the bottom of your backbone, or spine. Tailbone disorders include tailbone injuries, pain, infections, cysts and tumors. You rarely break your tailbone. Instead, most injuries cause bruises or pulled ligaments. A backward fall onto a hard surface, such as slipping on ice, is the most common cause of such injuries. Symptoms of various tailbone disorders include pain in the tailbone area, pain upon sitting, pain or numbness in the arms or legs due to pressure on nerves in the tailbone area, and a mass or growth you can see or feel.