“My feet have pins and needles.” “I have ants in my pants.” “My arm fell asleep.” Whatever you call it, the tingling feeling known scientifically as paresthesia has effected almost everyone at some point.
In these everyday situations you are probably picturing, the tingling goes away within a few minutes, and we are able to continue comfortably with our day.
In the case of chronic paresthesia, however, the sensation can last for a long time and without an obvious reason. This often has an underlying cause that should be treated as soon as possible.
If you think that you may have chronic paresthesia, set an appointment with your doctor today to make sure you can be treated as quickly as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of Paresthesia?
Although you probably know this feeling by now, here is a list of symptoms caused by paresthesia. Paresthesia is commonly associated with these feelings in your hands, feet, legs, and arms:
- Loss of strength
- Stabbing pain
- Loss of movement in affected area
Temporary paresthesia involves these symptoms for a short amount of time. Chronic paresthesia is when these symptoms occur for an abnormally long time, abnormally often, and/or without a cause.
It often also tends to have the more severe of the symptoms, such as the stabbing pain and loss of movement.
What Are the Causes of Paresthesia?
Although a common myth is that it is caused when your blood circulation is cut off, this strange sensation is actually related to the nervous system.
Paresthesia is caused when you accidentally put pressure on a nerve, blocking it from being able to communicate with the rest of the body. The sensation itself is, essentially, the nerve being able to communicate again, and sending out a signal to make sure.
In temporary paresthesia, the pressure on the nerve is caused when you are in a strange position that cuts the nerves off, and that pressure can be physically removed by changing positions.
Chronic paresthesia occurs when the nerve is having trouble communicating for other problems that are not quite as easy to solve, and has many possible underlying causes all related to nerve damage.
Because they are related to nerve damage, they are very serious problems, and the paresthesia is a warning sign that should not be ignored before the problem gets worse.
Nerve damage that occurs when nerves are swollen, irritated, or compressed is called radiculopathy, and is typically caused by:
- A herniated disc pressing on a nerve
- Anything pressing on a nerve that is exiting the spinal column
- The passage that the nerve goes through narrowing too much as it leaves the spinal column
Chronic, or permanent, damage to a nerve is called neuropathy, which is usually caused by one or more of the following:
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), which also relates to diabetes
- Deficiencies in certain vitamins and nutrients
- Injuries caused by a repetitive motion
- Connective tissue disorder
- Kidney diseases
- Lyme disease, shingles, HIV, and similar infections
- Rheumatoid arthritis and other similar autoimmune diseases
- A tumor in/around the brain or nerves
- Exposure to certain toxic chemicals or heavy metals
- bone marrow disorder
- Too much vitamin D
- Liver diseases
- Multiple Sclerosis, and other similar neurological diseases
- Some medications, including chemotherapy medication
This kind of damage may lead to more serious problems, such as paralysis or permanent numbness. If you are experiencing chronic paresthesia, it is important to go to a doctor, so they can find the underlying cause and treat it right away, before it can do even more damage.
Who Can Paresthesia Affect?
Anyone can get temporary paresthesia, but it can be prevented through simple changes. Also, paresthesia in general is found more often in very young children and adults over 50.
You are more at risk for chronic paresthesia if you think you may have or know you have one or more of the underlying causes listed above. Examples of this are people with his blood sugar, athletes, people being treated with chemotherapy, or people with shingles.
What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Paresthesia?
The doctor will first ask a series of questions that you should be prepared to answer. These may include:
- What medication(s) are you taking?
- What sort of activities have you been doing?
- Do you have any diseases or disorders?
- Have there been any major changes in your lifestyle or diet lately?
You can prepare for these questions by writing down some of the answers you think you might forget, especially different medications you are taking.
From there, they will give you a physical and neurological examination. They will probably also ask to do lab tests, which will most likely include a blood test, and also possibly a spinal tap.
These tests will allow them to test for, and eliminate, some of the possible underlying causes.
They may also check for a herniated disc, tumor, or other possible problems with your spine using an X-ray, CT, or MRI.
From these tests, they may find the underlying cause. If not, they will have definitely ruled out many of the possibilities.
From there, they will be able to refer you to a specialist to help narrow the cause down. This will probably be a neurologist, endocrinologist, or an orthopedist.
How Is Paresthesia Treated?
Paresthesia itself does not really have a treatment. Usually, paresthesia can be treated through treating whatever has been determined to be the underlying cause.
This may involve surgery, medicine, or a simple lifestyle change. For example, someone with diabetes can take insulin, or an athlete can rest in between repetitive movements.
There are, however, some causes of nerve damage that cannot be treated. In these cases, it is possible that the paresthesia will never go away.
If the treatment is not working, tell your doctor, because they might be able to find another underlying cause. You could also get a second opinion or go straight to a specialist.
Still, most of the underlying causes are treatable, especially if they are caught early on, which is why it is important to go to the doctor right away if you think you may be experiencing chronic paresthesia.
Temporary paresthesia does not require treatment, because it usually goes away on its own within a few minutes.
How Can I Avoid Paresthesia?
Avoid positions that tend to cause temporary paresthesia, such as sitting cross-legged, sleeping on your arm, or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
To avoid chronic paresthesia, do as much as you can to prevent its underlying causes. Make sure you are consuming a healthy amount of vitamins and nutrients, and eat a healthy diet.
When you are exercising, try to be sure you are not doing too many repetitive motions, and if you are, make sure you give yourself breaks.
Some underlying causes of paresthesia can not be prevented, such as type one diabetes and injuries.
Because of this, there is no way to have no risk of ever experiencing chronic paresthesia; you can only lower your risk as much as you can.
If you already have any of the health problems that are considered to be an underlying cause of paresthesia, make sure to watch them closely, and treat them as well as you can.
If you take your medication and get proper treatment, it is possible to avoid paresthesia. If you do end up getting it, it could mean your condition is getting worse, and you should notify your doctor as soon as you can.
Paresthesia is the fancy name for a mild discomfort that everyone has had to go through at some point during their lives.
From the tickling sensation after sitting cross-legged for too long in preschool to the annoying numbness after a long nap on the couch, the tingling sensation of cut-off nerves is familiar to almost all of us, but some people know it too well.
Chronic paresthesia is a symptom of a wide range of possible problems, and none of them are good. Although paresthesia seems harmless, if not annoying at times, it is rooted in harmful health problems that can cause much more damage.
The paresthesia is an alert signal that something has gone wrong in the nervous system, and it is one that should not be ignored.
If you are experiencing paresthesia too often or without an obvious cause, it is time to go to the doctor.
Finding the root of your problem will not only help you treat it, but could also help you find a dangerous problem lurking in your body, and allow you to treat it before it is too late.
Remember that although you have experienced paresthesia before, and it was harmless, chronic paresthesia is not the same, and should not be ignored.
The underlying cause could be very serious, and even if it turns out not to be, it is always safer to check than to assume you are alright.