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When should you see a doctor about nerve pain?

The nervous system is integral to your body’s ability to function. It regulates your breathing, controls your muscles and senses heat, cold and pain. So what happens when there’s a glitch in your nervous system?

If you’re experiencing nerve pain, your nervous system is sending the wrong messages to your brain. Your brain may receive a pain signal, but there’s often no obvious cause for the pain and therefore no clear way to relieve it.

Nerve pain is often a result of damage from an injury or disease. Diseases like cancer, HIV, diabetes, shingles and more can cause serious nerve pain, as can physical injuries that crush, compress or sever the nerves.

You may be feeling nerve pain when things that normally feel painless, like a breeze on your arm or the brush of a bed sheet against your body, feel painful. You may also experience numbness, tingling, pricking and loss of reflexes. In severe cases, nerve damage can cause paralysis and affect functions like digestion, breathing and more.

Keep in mind that if your nerve pain is caused by an underlying condition, like a disease, treating the disease alone may not help alleviate your nerve pain. The nerve pain may require its own separate treatment. Treatments can include topical treatments, medications, electrical stimulation, anesthetic injections, alternative treatments or lifestyle changes. In many cases, nerve pain cannot be completely cured.

If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms for several days and the pain hasn’t gone away after rest or over-the-counter pain relievers, make an appointment with a doctor. Nerve damage is progressive, and the sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances are of avoiding permanent damage.

If there’s a common underlying cause for your nerve pain, like disease or injury, a treatment path will often be clear. If you don’t have a common underlying cause, however, figuring out what’s triggering your nerve pain can take awhile, and your doctor may need to run a few tests. The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner you’ll find relief from the pain.  

About Vivek Kushwaha

Vivek P. Kushwaha attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his B.A. from the College of Natural Sciences. He then earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Texas.

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