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What Is Mononeuropathy?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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Mononeuropathy is a condition in which a single nerve in the body becomes damaged. Most cases of mononeuropathy are caused by direct injuries, pressure on the nerve, or local disorders such as cancer or hematoma. A person with nerve damage might feel a tingling sensation, numbness, or prolonged soreness. Symptoms tend to fade away in time with rest and avoidance of any activities that put pressure on the nerve. In cases of severe nerve damage, surgery and physical therapy are helpful in relieving pressure and restrengthening muscles at the site of the problem.

A person experiences mononeuropathy when some force puts constant pressure on the nerve. Compression can be caused by very mundane actions, such as crossing the legs or typing on a computer for a long period of time. Injuries from falls or other accidents that cause internal swelling can also put pressure on nerves, as can internal tumors or collections of blood called hematomas. Most people experience a tingling sensation that can last anywhere from a few seconds to several hours at a time if pressure cannot be relieved. Muscle tightening, weakness, and dull pain also commonly occur.

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Mononeuropathy can occur anywhere in the body, but doctors have identified several nerves that are most prone to the condition. The median nerve in the wrist frequently becomes compressed due to repetitive hand motions in a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. When the ulnar nerve that travels up the elbow is affected, doctors diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome. Nerve problems in the lower legs and feet are deemed peroneal monoeuropathies.

Doctors usually try to identify and treat the underlying cause of mononeuropathy to provide relief. A physician can conduct a physical exam to feel the muscles around the nerve to check for tightness and weakness. In many cases, patients undergo magnetic resonance imaging tests (MRIs) so that doctors can check for lesions, tumors, or other disorders that might be putting pressure on the nerve. Once an accurate diagnosis of the cause of mononeuropathy has been made, physicians can determine the proper course of treatment.

If symptoms are caused by pressure and overuse, simply resting the body part and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can be effective in relieving discomfort. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, is usually instructed to avoid activities that cause pain and numbness, such as typing or writing. A patient may need to wear a brace or splint to help protect muscles and prevent excessive pressure on the nerve. Simple physical therapy exercises can be helpful in rebuilding muscle strength after symptoms subside. With treatment and care, mild mononeuropathies can usually be relieved in a few months.

Other causes require different approaches to treatment. Surgery may be necessary to cut away a tumor or other abnormal mass that is putting pressure on a nerve. Infections are generally treated with oral or intravenous antibiotics, and hematomas can be combated with medication to thin the blood. A timely diagnosis and careful treatment can ensure that a patient fully regains strength and control of his or her affected body part.

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