Paresthesia

Paresthesia is an abnormal burning or prickling sensation. This sensation is generally felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet. However, it may occur in any part of the body. It is usually not painful. The feeling may be described as:

  • Tingling or numbness.

  • "Pins and needles."

  • Skin crawling.

  • Buzzing.

  • Limbs "falling asleep."

  • Itching.

Most people experience temporary (transient) paresthesia at some time in their lives.

CAUSES

Paresthesia may occur when you breathe too quickly (hyperventilation). It can also occur without any apparent cause. Commonly, paresthesia occurs when pressure is placed on a nerve. The feeling quickly goes away once the pressure is removed. For some people, however, paresthesia is a long-lasting (chronic) condition caused by an underlying disorder. The underlying disorder may be:

  • A traumatic, direct injury to nerves. Examples include a:

  • Broken (fractured) neck.

  • Fractured skull.

  • A disorder affecting the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Examples include:

  • Transverse myelitis.

  • Encephalitis.

  • Transient ischemic attack.

  • Multiple sclerosis.

  • Stroke.

  • Tumor or blood vessel problems, such as an arteriovenous malformation pressing against the brain or spinal cord.

  • A condition that damages the peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy). Peripheral nerves are not part of the brain and spinal cord. These conditions include:

  • Diabetes.

  • Peripheral vascular disease.

  • Nerve entrapment syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Shingles.

  • Hypothyroidism.

  • Vitamin B12 deficiencies.

  • Alcoholism.

  • Heavy metal poisoning (lead, arsenic).

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will attempt to find the underlying cause of your paresthesia. Your caregiver may:

  • Take your medical history.

  • Perform a physical exam.

  • Order various lab tests.

  • Order imaging tests.

TREATMENT

Treatment for paresthesia depends on the underlying cause.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Avoid drinking alcohol.

  • You may consider massage or acupuncture to help relieve your symptoms.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You feel weak.

  • You have trouble walking or moving.

  • You have problems with speech or vision.

  • You feel confused.

  • You cannot control your bladder or bowel movements.

  • You feel numbness after an injury.

  • You faint.

  • Your burning or prickling feeling gets worse when walking.

  • You have pain, cramps, or dizziness.

  • You develop a rash.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.