Skin is the first line of defense mechanism in any mammals especially humans. Skin, generally acts as a natural barrier for various microorganisms.
The sensitivity and texture of skin varies from one person to another. Many people may experience some special types of sensation in various parts of the body.
The types of sensation might include numbness, burning, tingling, itching, etc. Such types of sensation in skin without any proper reason behind it is called paresthesia of skin.
Paresthesia is a medical term to describe any type of sensations occur in the skin. It is considered as an abnormal sensation in the skin. The sensations are generally felt in legs, hands, feet, toes, and fingers.
These sensations can be painless as in case of skin crawling but is frustrating.
What are the symptoms of Paresthesia?
The symptoms of paresthesia include numbness, tingling, skin crawling, burning, itching, cold, footdrop, muscular atrophy and weakness. The most common body parts that are affected are arms, feet, legs and hand.
What are the Causes of Paresthesia of Skin?
The exact cause of paresthesia of skin is not possible to determine. The reason for temporary and chronic paresthesia are quite different.
Temporary paresthesia results from poor blood circulation when sitting in a particular position for longer period of time. While chronic paresthesia might result due to some nerve damage or some disease.
Paresthesia can be a result of any disease related to central nervous system (CNS) or peripheral nervous system (PNS). Paresthesia of skin can be temporary or chronic.
How many Types of Paresthesia are There?
Paresthesia of skin is broadly classified into two groups:
1- Transient Paresthesia
These are not so serious sensations and usually go off after a course of time. These do not need any treatment. Everybody might experience numbness or tingling sensation on occasions.
Sometimes the legs become numb due to pressure on the nerves but it eventually resolves when the position of legs are changed and the nerves are relaxed.
2- Chronic Paresthesia
These are long lived and need medical treatment. These can be caused due to any disease, a stroke, diabetes, sciatica (pressure on sciatica nerve) or vitamin deficiency.
These may also be caused due to heavy and frequent drinking habits. Certain medications such as chemotherapy, anti-seizure medications and medication for HIV treatment. Chronic paresthesia might be painful.
People suffering with chronic paresthesia should seek a medical help.
How Paresthesia is Diagnosed?
The medical history of the patient suffering from paresthesia is required by the physician. The doctor also asks for symptoms the patient suffers from. Doctor may do some physical examination and tests to confirm the disease.
The tests that are recommended are as follows:
- Electromyography (ECG): It shows the activities of nerves and muscles.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): It gives a detailed view of the body part suffering the most.
- Ultrasound: It produces the images of the body. It is used to visualize smaller part of the body.
- Lumber Puncture: It is done to see whether the disease is linked to neurological disorder or not.
What Kind of People are At Risk of Developing Paresthesia of skin?
Temporary paresthesia can be experienced by anybody. In case of chronic paresthesia, people suffering with type 1 and 2 diabetes, having autoimmune disease, compromised immunity and any neurological disorder.
People playing any instrument or any sport such as tennis are also at high risk of developing paresthesia of skin. Continued nerve damage can lead to paralysis.
Other diseases that might be a cause of chronic paresthesia are fibromyalgia, migraine, neuropathy, menopause, dehydration, nerve irritation, atherosclerosis, heavy metal poisoning, etc.
Obese people are prone to develop paresthesia as extra weight puts pressure on the nerves. Weight gain due to pregnancy can also cause paresthesia. Women are more likely to develop this disease than men. People who are on prolonged bed rest may also get paresthesia.
How to Treat Paresthesia?
Temporary paresthesia does not require any medication. The severity and treatment of paresthesia depends on the cause of the disease.
If paresthesia is due to any accident then physical therapy helps a lot. If paresthesia is as a result of any disease, then proper treatment of that disease can also cure paresthesia.
If there is any neurological condition that has caused permanent nerve damage then the chronic paresthesia may be long lasting. Physical therapy might solve the problem.
Physical therapy improves the flow of blood in the body that reduces the risk of paresthesia. It also rejuvenates the body and strengthens muscles. Physical therapy includes exercise, yoga and other daily activities.
Apart from physical therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy also helps in paresthesia of skin. Massaging with aromatic oil is also beneficial. Nutritional therapy such as vitamin complex (Vitamin B12) also helps in paresthesia.
People with chronic paresthesia may need some antidepressant medications. This helps the person relief from depression due to paresthesia. Steroid injections also relieve pain due to chronic paresthesia.
If nothing works and pain is severe then surgery is the only option. Surgery reduces the pressure from the pinched nerve.
Can Paresthesia be Prevented?
Paresthesia of skin cannot be prevented and avoided. There are some tips that can reduce the severity of paresthesia.
These are as follows:
- Take rest at frequent intervals.
- Avoid playing games with repeated movement.
- Stop activities that cause tissue damage and jerks.
- Do not rest on your arms for longer period. Try resting on both the arms alternatively.
- Do not keep legs at a particular position for longer time.
- Always try to maintain good posture. It avoids unnecessary pressure on the nerves.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly for strengthening muscles and relaxing body.
Paresthesia of skin is a curable disease that results due to many other diseases. It is characterized by pin and needle sensation in the limbs that can go off in few minutes if it is a temporary paresthesia while becomes painful and severe in case of chronic paresthesia.
It is always advisable to consult a doctor in chronic paresthesia.