Patients presenting with symptoms of nerve weakness are common in the outpatient sections of neurologists and general practitioners making it a “common presenting symptom” for these practitioners.
Nerve weakness can occur in all age groups and affect both sexes. Nerve weakness adversely affects the quality of life and may lead to disability in some cases. There are a variety of causes for nerve weakness. It is important to identify the exact reason behind the weakness so that the correct remedial measures can be started on time.
Diseases And Ailments Linked To Nerve Weakness
Weakness can occur because of a disease of the nerves or due to a systemic (other system) illness. Some of the common neurological diseases that lead to nerve weakness are:
Brain stroke: Stroke can lead to sudden onset of weakness in one half (arm and leg) of the body. It occurs due to the blockage of blood supply to a part of the brain.
Other brain diseases: Brain tumors, infections in the brain, brain hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) can also lead to weakness of arms and legs.
Slipped disc (or disc prolapse): Prolapse of an inter-vertebral disc in the cervical (neck) region can lead to weakness of the arm on one side (due to compression of the cervical nerve). Similarly, prolapse of disc in the lumbar (lower back) region can lead to weakness of one leg (usually the foot). In addition, the patient may also have arm or leg pain.
Spinal cord compression: Compression of the spinal cord due to tuberculosis, fracture of spinal vertebrae (after fall or accident) or tumors can lead to weakness of arms and legs.
Nerve diseases: Nerves are affected in several conditions such as diabetes mellitus, leprosy, vasculitis (inflammation, leading to less blood flow to the nerves) and injury. These conditions lead to nerve weakness. In addition, the patients also have numbness and tingling of
the affected areas.
Systemic Conditions Leading To Nerve Weakness
Anaemia: Patients with low haemoglobin complain of generalised weakness.
Heart failure: Patients with poor heart function also complain of weakness.
Chronic kidney disease: Patients with kidney diseases, especially those on long-term dialysis also suffer from weakness.
Infections: Most infections are associated with weakness. Some of them include viral fever, typhoid, malaria and tuberculosis.
Thyroid disorders: Patients with thyroid problems also complain of weakness, especially if the treatment is inadequate.
Weakness In Different Age Groups
Weakness can occur in all age groups; however, it occurs more commonly in older people. Though mild-general-weakness is a part of normal ageing and is common in the elderly, age alone does not predispose to severe nerve weakness. Older people have a higher prevalence of weakness, simply because the underlying causes leading to weakness are more common in them.
Weakness Due To Nutritional Deficiency
Nutritional deficiency is a common cause of weakness in all age groups and in both sexes. Some of the common nutritional deficiencies leading to weakness include deficiencies of the following:
● Vitamin B12
● Vitamin D
● Protein deficiency
● Vitamin B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 is required for the normal growth and functioning of the nerves (in brain, spinal cord and nerves of extremities). It is especially required in the formation of myelin sheath (covering of the nerves). Therefore, Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to weakness of arms and legs. In addition, patients may also have memory problems, tingling and numbness of legs, and imbalance. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anaemia and contribute to the weakness. It is more common in pure vegetarians and older people.
● Thiamine deficiency: It is common in chronic alcohol consumers. Sufferers have weakness, memory impairment and visual disturbances.
● Iron deficiency: It is more common in women, especially those of the childbearing age. Iron deficiency occurs due to a combination of poor intake and blood loss (during child birth and heavy bleeding during periods). Iron deficiency anaemia is a common cause of weakness in women and children.
● Protein deficiency: Protein deficiency is common in children, especially those in poorer sections of the society. It also occurs in people with chronic illnesses. Protein deficiency can lead to generalised weakness.
Say Thumbs Up To Exercise In Recovery From Weakness
Exercise is extremely useful in speedy recovery from a neurological illness. It helps in regaining strength much faster. One should do the exercises under the guidance of good physiotherapists and should follow the schedule as suggested by them. Exercises should be continued for a considerable amount of time for desirable benefit. Exercise therapy is very safe and there are no adverse effects. Therefore, patients suffering from weakness need a combination of medications and exercise for complete recovery.