Mononeuropathy is damage to a single nerve, which results in loss of movement, sensation, or other function of that nerve.
Neuropathy; Isolated mononeuritis
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:
- Axillary nerve dysfunction (loss of movement or sensation in the shoulder)
- Common peroneal nerve dysfunction (loss of movement or sensation in the foot and leg)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (median nerve dysfunction -- including numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers)
Cranial mononeuropathy III, compression or diabetic type
- Cranial mononeuropathy VI (double vision)
- Cranial mononeuropathy VII (facial paralysis)
- Femoral nerve dysfunction (loss of movement or sensation in part of the leg)
- Radial nerve dysfunction (problems with movement in the arm and wrist and with sensation in the back of the arm or hand)
- Sciatic nerve dysfunction (problem with the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg, and sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and sole of the foot)
- Ulnar nerve dysfunction (cubital tunnel syndrome -- including numbness, tingling, weakness of outer and underside of arm, palm, ring and little fingers)
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
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
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.
Complications may include:
- Deformity, loss of tissue mass
- Medicine side effects
- Repeated or unnoticed injury to the affected area due to lack of sensation
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.
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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.
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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