About Peripheral Nerve Disorders

Peripheral nerves lie outside the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and extend to organs and limbs. The peripheral nervous system is not protected by bone like the central nervous system which means peripheral nerves are more easily exposed to toxins (poisons) and mechanical injuries.

The peripheral nervous system works as a vast communications network. It sends information from your brain and spinal cord to every other part of your body.

Types of Peripheral Nerve Disorders

There are many types of peripheral nerve disorders. They can affect one nerve or many of the nerves in your body. Nerve disorders may include:

Nerve entrapment

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment (trapped nerve at the elbow), also called cubital tunnel syndrome

Learn more about nerve entrapment

Traumatic nerve injury

  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Spinal cord injury

Learn more about traumatic nerve injury

Peripheral nerve masses (tumors)

  • Neurofibroma: Most common in people who have the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis.
  • Schwannoma: Nerve sheath tumors that can occur in people who don’t have another disorder. They can also occur in people who have neurofibromatosis or schwannomatosis.
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor: Very aggressive, cancerous nerve sheath tumors. They can occur in association with neurofibromatosis Type 1.
  • Disease: related peripheral neuropathy, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

Learn more about peripheral nerve masses (tumors)

Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve Disorders

Peripheral nerves send sensory information back to your brain and spinal cord including messages that your feet are cold or your skin is burned. Damage to peripheral nerves and the peripheral nervous system interrupts these important connections and messages to your brain. Symptoms of peripheral nerve disorders often start gradually and get worse if they are not associated with a more traumatic injury. Symptoms include:
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Burning or tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to touch

Diagnosis and Treatment

The OHSU Nerve Center offers a wide range of neurodiagnostic (nerve diagnosis) services to help diagnose, manage and track your peripheral nerve disorder. We also provide treatment options designed to treat the underlying problems associated with nerve disorders, reduce pain, and control your symptoms. We find that the sooner a nerve issue is addressed, the better the outcomes.

Learn more about diagnostic procedures for peripheral nerve disorders

Learn more about peripheral nerve disorder treatments