Vagus Nerve Damage Symptoms

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Talk to your doctor if you experience severe back pain.
Talk to your doctor if you experience severe back pain. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The vagus nerve, also called the tenth cranial nerve, stretches from the brain through the abdomen. Branches from the vagus nerve innervate the brain, ear, tongue, pharynx, larnynx, heart, lungs and digestive organs. Symptoms of damage to the vagus nerve depend on the severity of the nerve damage, the location of the injury and whether nearby blood vessels are also affected.

Vocal Changes Caused by Nerve Damage

Damage to the vagus nerve can result in trouble with moving the tongue while speaking, or hoarseness of the voice if the branch leading to the larynx is damaged.

Dysphagia Due to Nerve Damage

The vagus nerve controls many muscles in the palate and tongue which, if damaged, can cause difficulty with swallowing (dysphagia).

Changes in Gag Reflex

The gag reflex is controlled by the vagus nerve, and damage may cause this reflex to be lost, which can increase the risk of choking on saliva or food.

Hearing Loss Due to Nerve Damage

Hearing loss may result from damage to the branch of the vagus nerve that innervates the concha of the ear.

Cardiovascular Problems Due to Nerve Damage

Damage to the vagus nerve can cause cardiovascular side effects, including irregular heartbeat and arrhythmia.

Digestive Problems Due to Nerve Damage

Damage to the vagus nerve may cause problems with contractions of the stomach and intestines, which can lead to constipation.

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