Nerves power your entire body, but those nerves can be damaged by injury or an illness such as diabetes. Neuropathy is a disorder that causes nerve damage and affects your ability to feel and move. Exactly how your body and your movement are affected depends on where in the body the damaged nerves are located. When nerves in the brain or brainstem are affected, it is called cranial neuropathy.
The cranial nerves are those that arise directly from your brain or brainstem and often affect areas like the face and eyes. Some of the different types of cranial neuropathies include:
If several different cranial nerves are affected, it is called multiple cranial neuropathies (MCN).
Cranial neuropathy can develop for many different reasons. For example:
Different types of neuropathies can cause different symptoms, based on which nerves are damaged and where they are located. Generally, neuropathies can cause:
Some of the symptoms of different types of cranial neuropathies include:
A healthcare provider will usually do a variety of tests to diagnose neuropathy. Depending on the type of cranial neuropathy your doctor suspects, tests may include:
Many types of neuropathies will get better with time, without any treatment. Sometimes medicines can be used to treat an infection, help reduce swelling in or near a nerve, or help if the neuropathy is causing pain. For some types of neuropathies and in some cases, surgery may help. Other times, the nerve damage can't be treated or repaired.
But it's important to diagnose and treat any health conditions that are causing the neuropathy. Treating common causes like high blood pressure, infections, and diabetes can help to treat the neuropathy. Eating nutritious foods, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol can also help manage neuropathy.
Cranial neuropathy can't always be prevented. But controlling common causes can help to reduce the risk of developing neuropathy. Reducing your risk factors for stroke and head injury, managing your diabetes well, and lowering high blood pressure can all be helpful in preventing neuropathy.
Cranial neuropathies are usually not dangerous and may get better on their own with time. But they can certainly be bothersome for the people who have them.
Your best strategy for managing a cranial neuropathy is to manage possible causes. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, and brain tumors. You should also prevent head injury.
If the symptoms do not go away on their own, your healthcare team might recommend physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other options to help with them. Talk with your healthcare provider about other possible options, such as surgery, if a cranial neuropathy is affecting your quality of life.
If you have been diagnosed with a cranial neuropathy, talk with your healthcare providers about when you might need to call them. They will likely advise you to call if your symptoms get worse or if you develop new symptoms such as pain, numbness, weakness, or changes in vision.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200