What Are the Different Types of Vagus Nerve Damage?

Nervous system.
A diagram showing the vagus nerve.
Article Details
  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Images By: J E Theriot, Alila
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The vagus nerve, which runs from the stomach to the brain, can become damaged in a number of different ways. One of the most common forms of damage is caused by hormonal imbalances. Physical damage, either from injury or surgery, can also cause impairment. Some patients may also have damage as the result of a viral or bacterial infection or a cancerous growth at any point along the length of the nerve. The result of any of these types of vagus nerve damage is often decreased function of the digestive system.

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of damage to the vagus nerve. Patients who have had this disease for a long time can experience damage to nerves throughout the body, often because of improper blood flow. Without enough blood, the vagus nerve can become permanently impaired. Cancer can also cause damage to the nerve, and tumors in the brain or that interfere with blood flow to the nervous system can damage it as well.

It is also possible for the vagus nerve to sustain an injury from trauma to the patient's body. The nerve is buried deep within the body and brain, so substantial damage must be done to a patient in order for the nerve to become injured. More frequently, patients who undergo surgery of the brain or digestive system can have it accidentally damaged.

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Alcoholism can lead to another type of vagus nerve damage. Patients with this disease may experience a deterioration of nerve function throughout the body. In many cases, however, the damage is reversible if the patient stops drinking.

Some types of nerve damage are caused by infection. Viruses have been known to spread from the ears, nose, and throat to the vagus nerve, which runs behind these organs. A viral infection may be difficult to treat and could lead to irreversible damage to the nerve. Bacterial infections can also spread to the vagus nerve, though these infections can often be treated through the use of antibiotics.

Any type of vagus nerve damage can lead to gastroparesis. Patients with this condition have reduced gastrointestinal mobility because the vagus nerve is responsible for diverting enough blood to the digestive system so that it can process food quickly and efficiently. In patients with irreversible damage to the nerve, this condition can be controlled medically, though it cannot be cured.

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Discuss this Article

anon340907
Post 4

Can antibiotics harm the vagus nerve? Specifically can the fluoro quinoline drugs (Cipro) harm the vagus nerve?

anon321425
Post 3

I've had this nerve damage in my nose now for seven years. It's right about where a pair of glasses would fit on your nose. Every second day, it's back and burns like pins and needles all day long. No one seems to be able to help me.

Mor
Post 2

Some of the vagus nerve damage symptoms you might experience are having trouble swallowing, maybe even choking on food or saliva. A loss of your gag reflex, and a hoarse voice might also happen. However, there are so many different systems that the vagus nerve affects that you might have some of these or none of these.

I think, in particular if you have diabetes or have suffered from alcoholism, you should just get a general checkup regularly to make sure that nothing is wrong, either with your vagus nerve or with the multitude of other things that could happen with either of those conditions.

bythewell
Post 1

When I had to learn the names of different nerves in the body for a science class, I found it useful to know the Latin meaning for each one.

Vagus comes from the Latin word meaning "to wander". That's why it looks so similar to vague, and vagabond, and vagrant.

I guess it got called that because it is a very uneven looking nerve, with a lot of branches all over the place.

It doesn't actually wander itself, obviously, as nerves by necessity don't move around, but maybe the messages that go along it seem like they are wandering.

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