Definition and Overview

Neuritis is a broad term used to describe inflamed peripheral nerves. These are the nerves found outside the brain and spinal cord. They carry signals from different parts of the body to the brain. When they are inflamed, they begin to malfunction.

The condition can affect a single nerve. It can also involve a group of localised nerves in various parts of the body. It leads to pain and numbness. It can also lead to muscle weakness and wasting. In severe cases, it can cause paralysis.

There are several kinds of the disorder depending on the affected area. Commonly affected nerves are those that conduct signals from the spinal cord to the hand, arm, and shoulder. The nerves of the eyes and ears can also be affected.

The condition is more common in women than men. It is often found in people 55 years and older.

Key Symptoms

The key symptoms of the condition depend on which nerve is affected. But most patients feel tingling, burning, and abnormal sensation in the affected area. Other signs include a stabbing pain and muscle weakness. In severe cases, signs may also include loss of sensation and muscle reflexes. Paralysis of the affected area is also possible. Redness of the skin and muscle wasting are also very common.

If the optic nerves are damaged, patients will experience blurred or distorted vision and pain in the eyes. They will also have a difficulty adjusting to light changes. In severe cases, patients may suffer from vision loss.

If the nerves of the inner ear are the ones damaged, symptoms will include problems with balance and hearing. Patients may also experience vision problems and vertigo. These occur as the affected nerve loses its ability to transmit signals to the brain.

Causes of Condition

Common causes of the disorder are:

  • Trauma or injury - Injury or trauma to the nerve can lead to damage and inflammation. Nerves can also be damaged when exposed to harmful radiation. This is the case in people who are undergoing cancer treatment. Another possible cause is the injection of toxic chemical substances into the body.

  • Tumours - Abnormal growths can compress the nerves.

  • Certain infections - These include Bell’s palsy, Lyme disease, and leprosy.

  • Long-term use of certain drugs and alcohol - Drugs that are often linked to the disorder are statins. Arthritis medications and drugs used to lower blood pressure can also caused the condition.

Factors that increase one’s risk of neuritis are vitamin B deficiency and certain types of cancer. Those with an overactive immune system also have a higher-than-average risk of the condition.

Who to See and Treatment Options Available

Symptoms listed above can be brought to the attention of a general doctor. To diagnose the condition, the doctor will take the patient’s medical history and conduct a medical evaluation of the symptoms. Depending on the results of the test, patients may be referred to an eye or pain specialist. They may also be referred to an EENT doctor or neurologist. Blood tests, neurological tests, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will also be used. Other tests, such as a nerve biopsy and optical coherence tomography (OPT) may also be required.

Treatment options for the condition are as follows:

  • Vitamin B supplementation - Used if the condition is caused by vitamin B deficiency.

  • Surgery - Patients with a tumour that compresses the affected nerve can undergo a surgical procedure to have the abnormal growth removed.

  • Medical therapy - Patients may be prescribed with painkillers, anti-seizure and antidepressant drugs, and topical treatments. These help improve the symptoms of the condition. They are used to stop the affected nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Steroids can also be used in some cases.

A number of therapies can also be used to improve symptoms. These include electrical nerve stimulation, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Doctors choose the best treatment option for individual patients based on the severity of their condition and their preferences.

There are certain measures that can be taken to prevent the condition from recurring after successful treatment. These include eating a well-balanced diet and treating any underlying cause. Regular intake of vitamin B supplements and regular exercise can also help. Other measures that can be taken are avoiding stress, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. Doctors may also advise patients to use relaxation techniques.

References:

  • “Neuritis.” MedicaLook Your Medical World. Retrieved 3 December 2017, from http://www.medicalook.com/Neurological_disorders/Neuritis.html

  • “Peripheral neuropathy.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 3 December 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067

  • “Neuritis (Nerve Inflammation), Types, Causes and Symptoms” Retrieved 3 December 2017, from http://www.healthhype.com/neuritis-nerve-inflammation-types-causes-and-symptoms.html

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