I have occasionally experienced a tingling sensation or numbness, similar to pins and needles, in my extremities, but I never knew what was causing it. Whenever I brought it up with someone, they would look grim and worried, and whenever I ran a Google search for an answer, I was quite scared to see what I would find. Then, time went by and I forgot all about it, so I must have been fine. Still, I will never forget that fearful feeling that there was something wrong with my health. Some time later, I found the following guide to such tingling feelings to be a great educational tool. Read on to find out about this incredibly common experience.
NOTE: This guide is merely meant to inform. It is not a substitute for a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. If you experience the symptoms listed in this article, the best advice is that you discuss it with your GP.
Peripheral Neuropathy - three categories of causation
The very same sensation can occur without any obvious pressure being applied. This paresthesia may be severe, episodic or even chronic (never ending). If this happens and is coupled with other symptoms, like pain, itchiness, numbness and muscle wasting, the tingling might be an indication of nerve damage. Such damage is called peripheral neuropathy, affecting nerves that are far away from the brain and spinal cord, usually in the hands and feet.
There are a great number of people, with reference to the elderly in particular, who suffer from peripheral neuropathy. In America, for example, it is estimated that more than 20 million people have the condition, though there are in excess of 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy. In time, the condition worsens when left untreated, resulting in reduced mobility and possibly even disability. The major cause of peripheral neuropathy, in around 30% of cases, is diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy is therefore considered to be the first sign of diabetes.
WARNING: Since peripheral neuropathy, the underlying cause of paresthesia, in 30% of cases is a sign of diabetes, it is very important that if you feel prolonged paresthesia you consult your doctor immediately for treatment to help reduce your blood sugar levels.
3. The Remaining 40% of Cases
Besides diabetic and idiopathic causes of peripheral neuropathy, the remaining 40% of cases contain a wide variety of unrelated causes. There are so many causes on this list that it frightens many people when they first learn about the disease. However, the disease is very well-researched, and your doctor will know how to diagnose the root of your illness efficiently.
Other Common Causes of Paresthesia
Neuralgia: this is a potent stabbing or burning pain that occurs right along the nerve that has become damaged. It has many possible causes, such as shingles, diabetes, multiple sclerosis.
Radiculopathy: this is a disease of the spinal nerve roots. It can produce pain, numbness and weakness at the spine area.
Carpal Tunnel: a syndrome of the hand’s median nerve, which has become compressed. It is located on your palm.
Mini Stroke (transient ischemic attack): unlike a stroke, which kills brain cells, this ITA, mini stroke, does not. It does however cause similar symptoms to a stroke, and is the result of blood flow to the brain stopping for a period of time. This is considered a medical emergency that may well require urgent attention.
Spinal Cord Injury: is a very serious type of injury, which may drastically alter your life condition. It too will require urgent medical attention.
Other common causes include, but are not limited, to:
If you are very worried and would like a good idea of what may be causing your paresthesia, try this web tool, which may help you do just that. Keep in mind that this is no substitute for a professional diagnosis.
When to Consult a Doctor
For the following symptoms please contact your medical provider for advice:
- Numbness or tingling with no obvious cause
- A pain in the neck, forearm or fingers
- Unusually frequent urination
- Numbness in legs worsens when you walk
- If you have a rash
- If you experience dizziness, a muscle spasm, or something else unusual.
For the following symptoms please contact your hospital for urgent medical attention:
- You feel weak or unable to move, besides tingling and numbness
- Your tingling or numbness is felt after a recent head, neck or back injury
- You cannot control your arm or leg movement, or have lost bladder or bowel control
- You feel confused and have lost consciousness for a time
- Your speech is slurring or your vision is affected
Treatments will be related to the diagnosis made of the cause of your paresthesia. If the peripheral nerve cells have not died they will regenerate and you will return to normal. For diabetes, good blood sugar control can slow down and reduce the progression of diabetic neuropathy. Those who, for example, have a vitamin deficiency can have their diet supplemented with more balance, which will also correct their peripheral neuropathy.
To avoid paresthesia, you may take steps such as:
- Maintaining an optimal weight
- Avoid toxins, and follow your doctors exercise program
- Enjoy a balanced diet
- Limit your alcohol consumption
- Stopping smoking, which can restrict blood supply