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The MoveWell Program at Cushing Neuroscience Institute is an innovative program that works to improve your walk if you are affected by a medical condition or are recovering from surgery. Click on the image above to learn more.

Nerve Disorders and Damage Symptoms and Causes

Nerve Disorders and Damage Symptoms and Causes

Nerve damage symptoms can vary widely across the more than 100 peripheral nerve disorders that affect the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. The expert clinicians of the Nerve Disorders Center at North Shore-LIJ Health System's renowned Cushing Neuroscience Institute use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and treatment procedures to care for patients with complex nerve damage disorders in the peripheral nervous system such as the following:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease – A rapidly progressive and invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, degenerate and twitch. Eventually, the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost. Early nerve damage symptoms of ALS may be so minor that they are frequently overlooked. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
    • Muscle weakness in one or more of the following – hands, arms, legs or the muscles used in speech, swallowing or breathing
    • Twitching (fasciculation) and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet
    • Impairment of the use of the arms and legs
    • "Thick speech" and difficulty in projecting the voice
    • Shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, in more advanced stages
  • Bell’s palsy – A form of temporary facial paralysis, Bell's palsy results from damage or trauma to one of the two facial nerves and is the most common cause of facial paralysis, Bell's palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face. The nerve damage rarely affects both sides. Symptoms of Bell's palsy include:
    • Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of the face
    • Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions
    • Pain around the jaw or in or behind the ear on the affected side
    • Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
    • Headache
    • A decrease in the ability to taste
    • Changes in the amount of tears and saliva you produce
  • Brachial neuritis – This syndrome affects the lower motor neurons and/or certain nerves located in the shoulder area (brachial plexus). Symptoms of brachial neuritis nerve damage include shoulder pain that may be followed by paralysis within the shoulder muscles a few days after the onset of pain.
  • Brachial plexus injury – This is an injury to the network of nerves that sends signals from your spine to your shoulder, arm and hand. The injury occurs when these nerves are stretched or torn. This type of nerve damage is a result of your shoulder being pressed down forcefully while your head is pushed up and away from that shoulder. Brachial plexus injuries often happen in contact sports, vehicular accidents and falls.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – This nerve damage is a typically painful and progressive condition caused by compression of the median nerve in the forearm into the hand. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome nerve damage include:
    • Frequent burning, tingling or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and fingers
    • Feeling swelling in the absence of actual swelling
    • Decreased grip strength
    • In advanced cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb may waste away. People may also be unable to tell hot from cold by touch.
  • Charcot Marie-Tooth disease – Also known as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN) or peroneal muscular atrophy, Charcot Marie-Tooth disease is a group of nerve disorders caused by mutations in genes that affect the normal function of the peripheral nerves. A typical nerve damage symptom of Charcot Marie-Tooth disease is weakness of the foot and lower leg muscles, which may result in foot drop and a high-stepped gait with frequent tripping or falls.
  • Distal muscular dystrophy – Also known as distal myopathy, distal muscular dystrophy primarily affects the distal muscles (those farthest away from the shoulders and hips) in the forearms, hands, lower legs and feet. Symptoms of distal muscular dystrophy include progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement. Distal dystrophies are typically less severe, progress more slowly and involve fewer muscles than other forms of muscular dystrophy.
  • Facial nerve disorders – Due to injury or health ailments or environmental toxins such as mold or asbestos, nerve damage can occur in the face, causing paralysis or involuntary movements. Weakness, drooling, and speech difficulty are some of the many symptoms of facial nerve disorders.
  • Facial palsy – Otherwise known as Bell's palsy, facial palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to one of the two facial nerves. It is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally, Bell's palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face.
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia – Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is the abnormal development or growth of cells in the walls of arteries which cause the vessels to narrow. Arteries within the brain and kidneys can be affected. A characteristic "string of beads" pattern caused by the alternating narrowing and enlarging of the artery can be seen on angiogram. Some people do not have any symptoms of fibromuscular dysplasia or findings upon physical examination. Any pain or clinical symptom related to FMD typically comes from the organ that is supplied by the effected artery.
  • Ganglioneuroma – Usually a benign (non-cancerous) tumor located in the peripheral portion of the nervous system, ganglioneuromas progress slowly and may discharge hormones or other chemicals in the process. Symptoms of ganglioneuroma that result from hormonal discharges may include:
    • Anxiety
    • Diarrhea
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Excessive sweating
    • Excessive body hair
    • High blood pressure
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Palpitations
  • Hemifacial spasm – Hemifacial spasm is a neuromuscular disorder characterized by frequent involuntary contractions of the muscles on one side of the face. The first symptom of hemifacial spasm is usually an intermittent twitching of the eyelid muscle that can lead to forced closure of the eye. The spasm may then gradually spread to involve the muscles of the lower face, which may cause the mouth to be pulled to one side.
  • Motor neuron diseases – The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy cells that control essential muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease is just one example of motor neuron diseases that cause nerve damage. Causes of sporadic, or non-inherited, MNDs are not known, but environmental, toxic, viral or genetic factors may be implicated.
  • Muscular dystrophy – The muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of more than 30 genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement. Symptoms of muscular dystrophy nerve damage vary with the different types of muscular dystrophy.
  • Myasthenia gravis – This chronic, autoimmune, neuromuscular disease is characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the skeletal (voluntary) muscles of the body. The hallmark symptom of myasthenia gravis is muscle weakness that increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest. The cause of myasthenia gravis nerve damage is a defect in the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles.
  • Myoclonus – A sudden, involuntary jerking of a muscle or group of muscles is the hallmark of myoclonus. In its simplest form, myoclonus consists of a muscle twitch followed by relaxation. A hiccup is one example. Other familiar examples of myoclonus are the jerks or "sleep starts" that some people experience while drifting off to sleep. People often describe myoclonus symptoms as "jerks,"shakes" or "spasms" that are:
    • Sudden
    • Brief
    • Involuntary
    • Shock-like
    • Variable intensity and frequency
    • In one part of the body or all over the body
    • Severe enough to interfere with eating, talking or walking
  • Peripheral nerve disorders – These disorders cause nerve damage outside of the brain and spinal cord and cause various disruptions and abnormalities in the signals from the brain to the body. Symptoms of peripheral nerve disorders often start gradually, and then get worse. They include numbness, pain, burning or tingling, muscle weakness and sensitivity to touch.
  • Peripheral neuropathy – Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body. Some people with peripheral neuropathy may experience temporary numbness, tingling and prickling sensations, sensitivity to touch, pain and muscle weakness. Others may suffer more extreme nerve damage symptoms, including burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction.
  • Myopathy – Myopathy is a muscular disease that results in muscle weakness, cramps, stiffness and spasms. General symptoms of chronic inflammatory myopathy include slow, progressive muscle weakness that starts in the muscles closest to the trunk of the body (proximal muscles). Other symptoms include fatigue after walking or standing, tripping or falling, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. Some individuals may have slight muscle pain or muscles that are tender to touch.
  • Poliomyelitis – A highly contagious infectious disease, poliomyelitis, or polio, is caused by three types of poliovirus and is most recognized for its destruction to the nervous system, causing paralysis. People with subclinical polio infection, the most common type, might not have symptoms, or their symptoms may last 72 hours or less. Polio nerve damage symptoms include: general discomfort or uneasiness, headache, red throat, slight fever, sore throat and vomiting.
  • Shingles – Caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, shingles is an outbreak of a painful rash or blisters on the skin in one particular location on one side of the body. Initial nerve damage symptoms of shingles are burning or tingling sensations and pain, numbness and itching. After several days, the rash and blisters appear. Risk factors for shingles can include stress, fatigue, weakened immune system, cancer, radiation treatments, injury of the skin where the rash occurs and HIV/AIDS.
  • Speech and language disorders – The inability to form sounds or articulate words correctly or the inability to comprehend another's speech.

Make an appointment at the Nerve Disorders Center:
Cushing Neuroscience Institute’s Nerve Disorders Center makes it easy for you to take the first steps in ensuring the best neurological and neurosurgical care for yourself or your family. Simply fill out our Request an Appointment form, email us at, or call us at (516) 325-7000.


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