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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. Bodywide (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:

  • Electromyogram (EMG) to check the electrical activity in the muscles
  • Nerve conduction tests (NCV) to check the speed of electrical activity in the nerves
  • Nerve ultrasound to view the nerves
  • X-ray, MRI or CT scan to get an overall view of the affected area
  • Blood tests

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:

  • Medicines taken by mouth such as painkillers and other drugs 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

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

Katirji B. Disorders of peripheral nerves. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 107.

Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 420.

Wolfe VM, Rosenwasser MP, Tang P. Entrapment neuropathies of the arm, elbow, and forearm. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 67.

Review Date 5/30/2016

Updated by: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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