Paresthesia: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Paresthesia is a feeling of tickling, tingling, prickling, burning or numbness of a skin region, usually the hands, arms, feet or legs, but not restricted to the limbs.The sensation arises without warning and is painless. It is not associated with any long term physical consequence. Paresthesia is due to nerve compression. It is commonly called “pins and needles” or of a limb “falling asleep.” Paresthesia is different from paralysis. The former pertains to loss of sensation whereas paralysis involves both loss of sensation and loss of movement.Paresthesia

Types of Paresthesia

Paresthesia may either occur spontaneously or due to a disease.

  • Transient(highly common)
    • Common in the hands, arms, feet and legs
    • Spontaneous and temporary
    • Sustained pressure applied over a nerve, resulting to stimulated or inhibited function
    • Chronic or intermittent
      • Due to poor circulation or ill-functioning neurons
      • Often related to peripheral nervous system
      • Paresthesia as a symptom of an underlying traumatic nerve damage or neurological disease
      • Does not go away

Causes of Paresthesia

There are specific causes of paresthesia, associated with its different types

  • Transient
    • Legs crossed for a prolonged period of time
    • Falling asleep with arm crooked under the head
    • Breathing too fast
    • Chronic
      • Type II diabetes
      • Problems with blood vessels
      • Meralgiaparesthetica (numbness over outer thigh)
      • Carpal tunnel syndrome
      • Compression of a nerve in the spine (radiculopathy)
      • Shingles
      • Restless legs syndrome
      • Transverse myelitis (spinal cord inflammation)
      • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • Stroke or transient ischemic attack
      • Brain tumor
      • Sometimes, excessive alcohol consumption and low B12 in the diet

Symptoms of Paresthesia

Paresthesia, although a disease of its own, is also considered a symptom for many diseases. Some of the symptoms that occur with paresthesia include:

  • Electric or tingling sensation
  • Crawling sensation on skin
  • Itching
  • Numbness
  • Foot drop (difficulty lifting front part of foot)
  • Dysarthria (slurring words due to problems with muscles that enable speech)
  • Muscular atrophy
  • Anxiety
  • Increased urination
  • Increased paresthesia while doing a task or walking
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sensitive to touch

Treatment for Paresthesia

Transient paresthesia will go away on its own without treatment. It is simply important to remove the sustained pressure on the limb. On the other hand, the options for treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Thus, it is essential to find the reason for the prolonged paresthesia. Some instances are the following:

  • For mild symptoms, anti-inflammatory medications are recommended.
  • If diabetes is the underlying cause, treatment will involve controlling blood glucose level.
  • If to deficiency in diet, lifestyle adjustments are suggested.

Although paresthesia is rarely a call for serious alarm, it is better to be aware of the symptoms, as it may signify chronic conditions. Sign up for first aid classes to recognize symptoms of not just paresthesia, but other diseases that may be considered a medical emergency.

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