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Mononeuropathy

Mononeuropathy is damage to a single nerve, which results in loss of movement, sensation, or other function of that nerve.

Causes

Mononeuropathy is a type of damage to a nerve outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral neuropathy).

Mononeuropathy is most often caused by injury. Diseases affecting the entire body (systemic disorders) can also cause isolated nerve damage.

Long-term pressure on a nerve due to swelling or injury can result in mononeuropathy. The covering of the nerve (myelin sheath) or part of the nerve cell (the axon) may be damaged. This damage slows or prevents signals from traveling through the damaged nerves.

Mononeuropathy may involve any part of the body. Some common forms of mononeuropathy include:

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the specific nerve affected, and may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and focus on the affected area. A detailed medical history is needed to determine the possible cause of the disorder.

Tests that may be done include:

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to allow you to use the affected body part as much as possible.

Some medical conditions make nerves more prone to injury. For example, high blood pressure and diabetes can injure an artery, which can often affect a single nerve. So, the underlying condition should be treated.

Treatment options may include any of the following:

  • Over the counter painkillers, such as anti-inflammatory medicines for mild pain
  • Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and similar medicines for chronic pain
  • Injections of steroid medicines to reduce swelling and pressure on the nerve
  • Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve
  • Physical therapy exercises to maintain muscle strength
  • Braces, splints, or other devices to help with movement
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to improve nerve pain associated with diabetes

Outlook (Prognosis)

Mononeuropathy may be disabling and painful. If the cause of the nerve dysfunction can be found and successfully treated, a full recovery is possible in some cases.

Nerve pain may be uncomfortable and last for a long time.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Deformity, loss of tissue mass
  • Medicine side effects
  • Repeated or unnoticed injury to the affected area due to lack of sensation

Prevention

Avoiding pressure or traumatic injury may prevent many forms of mononeuropathy. Treating conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes also decreases the risk of developing the condition.

Alternative Names

Neuropathy; Isolated mononeuritis

References

Abbott EE, Bunney EB. Peripheral nerve disorders. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 93.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/peripheral-neuropathy-fact-sheet. Updated April 25, 2022. Accessed July 13, 2022.

Smith G, Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 392.

Review Date 4/25/2022

Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.