Chronic Pain

Differences Between Paresthesia and Peripheral Neuropathy

These two disorders are somewhat similar in the area they affect as well as how you feel it in your body.

Both of these disorders typically involve a numbness or tingling sensation in your hands, arms, feet, or legs.

However, peripheral neuropathy is much more serious and can become much more severe than paresthesia can get.

This article will cover what each of these disorders are, how different and similar they can be, and what you can do to help treat or prevent them.

What is paresthesia?

Paresthesia can be a temporary or chronic condition where you feel like your skin is crawling or parts of your body go numb or tingle for seemingly no reason.

Temporary paresthesia is the feeling you get when you, for example, sit on your leg for too long and then your leg has fallen asleep.

This happens because there was too much pressure on a nerve for too long but it starts to fade as you relieve the pressure – in this case, moving your leg out from under you – and will go away fairly quickly.

If it doesn’t fade, this could be a good sign you have another medical condition you need treated.

Chronic paresthesia could cause a stabbing pain and clumsiness of the limb that is being affected. It can be difficult to walk when it occurs in your legs or feet.

Having chronic paresthesia can also mean that you have suffered more severe nerve damage than simply a pinched nerve.

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a type of paresthesia where there is damage done to your peripheral nervous system, which is the part of your body that take information from your brain and transmits it to the rest of your body.

Over 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been found where each type has its own set of symptoms, development pattern, and prognosis. The impaired functions and symptoms depend on which nerves have been damaged.

For example, some people may experience temporary prickling sensations or muscle weakness. Some people may have more severe symptoms where they experience muscle wasting or organ or gland dysfunction. This disorder can be inherited or acquired through an injury, illness, or infection.

Similarities

These two afflictions affect a few of the same areas, including the:

  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Hands
  • Feet

They also share a few symptoms, including:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Stabbing pain, when paresthesia is chronic
  • Nerve damage

Nerve damage here is very broad as neuropathy afflicts at least a single nerve group and could end up causing a lot of damage. Chronic paresthesia could result in nerve damage over time.

And finally, of the possible causes, these disorders share that they can be caused by:

  • Trauma
  • Repetitive movement injuries when paresthesia becomes chronic

As you can see, there is just a little bit that is similar about these two disorders. And, in a few cases, chronic paresthesia can actually be peripheral neuropathy. In other cases, chronic paresthesia can result in radiculopathy.

Differences

There are a great number of differences between these two disorders, from their symptoms to their causes. Because of this, I am not going to list every single potential cause or symptom on this list, but I will cover quite a few.

Radiculopathy occurs when nerve roots are compressed, irritated or inflamed. This can occur in nerves that provide sensation and strength to your arms if you have cervical radiculopathy as well as anywhere else where nerve roots can be compressed.

This means that radiculopathy happen because of:

  • a herniated disk – where the soft center of the spinal disc pushes out through a crack in the hard-outer casing – that presses on a nerve
  • a narrowing of the canal where the information the nerve is carrying goes from the spinal cord to the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • any type of mass that compresses the nerve where it starts to leave the spine

While the list above includes a few of the causes, cervical radiculopathy symptoms and how you can physically experience it include:

  • arm or hand weakness
  • chronic neck pain

Neuropathy varies quite a bit more from radiculopathy and paresthesia because of the severity of the condition. Because of this, the areas affected, symptoms, and causes vary much more than the other two similar disorders.

Due to your peripheral nervous system being the one to connect the nerves from your brain and spinal cord, known as the central nervous system, to the rest of your body, the areas that can be affected are your:

  • internal organs
  • face

This is in addition to the shared list of potentially afflicted areas under similarities.

The specific types of nerves that can be affected include:

  • the sensory nerves that connect the central nervous system to your skin
  • the motor nerves that connect the central nervous system to your different muscle groups
  • the autonomic nerves that connect the central nervous system to your internal organs

Having peripheral neuropathy means that you have one or more of these nerve groups affected by your disorder. This is why it can lead to things such as your internal organs being affected or arm or leg weakness.

Differences Between Paresthesia and Peripheral Neuropathy

There are a great range of symptoms you can experience due to the many different areas of your body that can be affected by this disorder. Because of this, I will only list a few of the potential symptoms you can experience, which include:

  • sharp or stabbing pains
  • numbness in the hands or feet
  • a weak or heavy feeling in the arms and legs that makes them feel like they are hard to move
  • regularly dropping things from your hands
  • drop in blood pressure – this can worsen if you have another disorder or disease like diabetes where you are at risk for poor blood pressure already
  • digestive problems
  • excessive sweating

As with the list of symptoms, there are a great number of potential causes of neuropathy. So just a few of the possible causes of neuropathy include:

  • autoimmune diseases
  • kidney or liver diseases
  • having a stroke
  • hypothyroidism
  • too much vitamin D
  • bone marrow or connective tissue disorders
  • exposure to toxic materials, including toxic chemicals or metals

paresthesia vs peripheral neuropathy

Treatments for Paresthesia

Considering how the most often experienced form or paresthesia, there aren’t really many treatment options available.

If you have a limb fall asleep, it could be due to poor blood circulation or by having a pinched nerve.

For chronic paresthesia, follow your doctor’s advice on what they believe you should do. You may be able to help treat it somewhat by changing up your lifestyle that causes the injuries or going into physical therapy.

Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy

There isn’t a cure that will permanently get rid of peripheral neuropathy for you in many cases. However, you can do other forms of treatment.

This includes eating healthier, following your physician’s exercise plan, avoiding alcohol, or ensuring you have enough of each vitamin each day.

Your doctor may prescribe a particular type of treatment that will work best for you and your type of peripheral neuropathy based on what other disorder could be causing your peripheral neuropathy.

Depending on the type you have or if it is a part of another disorder, you may be prescribed medicine to take daily in order to alleviate the symptoms or prevent them from occurring.

However, staying healthy is a good way to help ease up the affliction slightly if you want to take matters into your own hands.

A few types of treatment that may be recommended to you include:

  • over-the-counter or prescription medicine
  • blood transfusion to get rid of potential antibodies irritating your nerves
  • electrodes sending small amount of electricity into your skin to disrupt nerves from transmitting the pain signals
  • splints

Conclusion

Hopefully now by the end of this article, you have learned quite a bit about both paresthesia and peripheral neuropathy.

If you have looked at this article and saw symptoms that you may have or have experienced, it may be worth talking to your physician about them, particularly if it is a reoccurring problem or if they are getting in the way of your daily life.

Keep in mind that the doctors only wish to help you get better and to fix whatever disorder or illness you may have, so list every possible symptom when questioned about it.

The easiest way to make sure you have mentioned everything you have experienced is to write it down and then take that paper or note with you.

Write down anything you have been feeling that is out of the ordinary for you or that you never really experienced often.

I hope that you now have enough insight into these disorders to help give you an idea of what you or a loved one could be experiencing, as well as ways that can help ease the pain or how often the disorder occurs somewhat.

Staying physically fit and eating well is a very good solution for many types of disorders or illnesses, and this is no exception.

Remember: if the pain is chronic or you are experiencing one of these symptoms very often, you may want to contact your physician to get tested to truly see if you do have one of these disorders.

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