The other name for vagus nerve is Cranial Nerve X. This is because the vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves which extend right from the brain stem of a person, all the way to the abdomen! It is one of the most important as well as crucial nerves in the body as its branches meander from the brain through the tongue, ears, heart, lungs, to even the various digestive organs of the body!
The main function of the vagus nerve is to provide information to the brain in reference to what is happening in the nervous system. It is also responsible for governing the responses of the reflex range. Apart from that, the vagus nerve also helps in controlling the basic functions of the body, which includes muscle movements, regulation of heartbeat, and also smooth functioning of the digestive system.
Causes of Damaged Vagus Nerve
There are many reasons, health conditions in fact, that can cause disorder in the vagus nerve resulting from a damage. The causes highly vary as the nerve itself is extended in many parts of the body. Mentioned below are some of the most well-known causes for the same.
- Diabetes: As diabetes is a condition wherein the blood sugar levels of the body become abnormal, a prolonged increase in the level of blood sugar can cause a significant damage to the blood vessels as well as the vagus nerve.
- Severe Trauma: If the body has experienced a severe trauma, may be because of an accident, or an injury that has resulted into a serious pressure on the vagus nerve, then that too can be a cause of damage in this nerve.
- Surgery: While performing a surgery, unforeseen circumstances may result in unwanted pressure on the vagus nerve, especially during surgery of the stomach or intestines, causing the damage.
- Viral Infections: According to Wake Forest University, patients suffering from vagus nerve damage in the Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders, reported to have been suffering from it as a result of viral infections in the upper respiratory system.
- Chronic Illnesses: Apart from diabetes, there are other chronic illnesses like HIV or Parkinson's disease which can cause damage to the vagus nerve.
- Alcoholism: A person suffering from chronic alcoholic abuse can also end up damaging the vagus nerve along with other nerves in the body. This condition is also known as 'Alcoholic Neuropathy'!
Symptoms of Damage in the Vagus Nerve
The symptoms of this ailment vary from the area of damage to the severity of the damage that has taken place. Mentioned below are the most well-known symptoms of vagus nerve damage.
- Vocal Changes: As mentioned earlier, the vagus nerve meanders all the way from the brain stem to the tongue, neck, heart, digestive organs, and so on. Therefore, damage to this nerve can also result in difficulty in speaking as the movement of tongue becomes troublesome. The voice of the person may also become hoarse.
- Gag Reflex: As mentioned earlier, the vagus nerve is responsible for governing the responses of the reflex range. A damage may result in loss of reflex or gag reflex, which can result in choking!
- Dysphagia: Dysphagia is a condition wherein a person experiences difficulty while swallowing! As the vagus nerve controls the movement of the tongue as well, its damage can also lead to dysphagia.
- Digestive Problems: Another symptom of vagus nerve damage would be suffering from digestive problems like constipation, indigestion, etc.
- Deafness: A branch of the vagus nerve also passes through the ear, a damage to which may result in hearing loss resulting to deafness!
- Cardiovascular Problems: As the vagus nerve also extends to the heart as well as the cardiovascular regions, the damage may result in symptoms like irregular heartbeat and other cardiovascular diseases like arrhythmia. If this is the case, then the patient may suffer from symptoms like chest pain, breathing problems, and also dizziness.
- Urinary Incontinence: Urinary incontinence is another symptom which can result from damage in the vagus nerve, as this nerve also innervates the bladder muscles.
It is highly recommended to visit a healthcare specialist as soon as possible if a person is found to be suffering from the symptoms mentioned above. The healthcare specialist will advise many tests which would be essential for detecting the exact area of the damage and proceed with relevant treatment.
The vagus nerve is one of the essential nerves of the body which performs multiple yet essential functions! The treatment also depends upon the severity of the condition. At times, the pressure on the vagus nerve releases with time, so not much of a treatment is required. However, checking with a medical professional would be able to determine the actual cause and treatment that should follow.