The common causes of nerve swelling can differ, depending on the area of the body that is affected. Nerves can become inflamed because of a variety of factors, including trauma, pressure and disease. Repetitive activities also can damage nerves in the body.
Injury, trauma and bruises are some of the common causes of swelling of the nerves. Injuries to the wrist or repetitive activities such as typing put men and women at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the median nerve. Some conditions and diseases, including diabetes, arthritis and leukemia, might also contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Injuries to the face or tooth decay can cause a tooth nerve to become inflamed.
The peroneal nerve, which provides movement to the lower legs and feet, could risk damage resulting from knee injuries, leg fractures, frequent leg crossing or knee surgery. Using crutches improperly, putting pressure on the upper arm or fracturing the bone in this area could cause damage to the radial nerve that supports movement of the upper arm, wrist and hand. Injury to the ulnar nerve might be caused by elbow trauma from dislocation or fractures to the elbow. The ulnar nerve is responsible for transmitting sensations from the fingers to the spinal cord and controlling the movements of muscles in the hand and forearm.
Poor posture is among the common causes of nerve swelling for the longest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve, which runs from the spinal cord to the legs, can be affected by sitting for long periods of time and applying too much pressure on the buttocks. Pressure or damage to this nerve leads to a symptom known as sciatica, which causes pain in the lower back and in the legs. The sciatic nerve might become inflamed for additional reasons, including a herniated disc, pelvic injury and tumors.
Brain tumors and infections are also among the causes of nerve swelling. These tumors and infections affect the optical nerve, which sends visual information to the brain. Papilledema, the name for optical nerve swelling, can be caused by meningitis infections.
The optic nerve can also become inflamed in men and women who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This type of inflammation is called optic neuritis, and it has other causes, including syphilis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and drugs. Pressure increases in the body, including high blood pressure, can also cause optic nerve swelling. Women are at an increased risk for developing a condition called benign intracranial hypertension, which arises when the body makes too much spinal fluid. The condition is related to papilledema and can be triggered because of obesity, use of birth control pills or pregnancy.