Paresthesia is a term referring to a burning or prickling sensation that people may experience within their legs, arms, hands or feet. It may also occur in other parts of their body.
The sensation, sometimes, occurs without warning and is a mostly painless sensation. It’s best described by its tingling, numbness and distinct skin crawling feeling.
Most people actually experience a temporary form of paresthesia when they sit with their legs crossed or sleep with their arm underneath their head for too long.
That’s why many people feel a brief ‘pins and needles’ sensation when they constrict the blood flow, muscles and even nerves of their limbs in that way.
People also feel ‘pins and needles’ when they place prolonged pressure on any of their nerves. The sensation, however, does fade away once the pressure gets relieved.
Though, paresthesia is a condition that doesn’t fade away like its temporary version. The chronic version of paresthesia doesn’t fade away as fast, and it’s often a symptom of an underlying neurological condition or even traumatic nerve damage.
A look at chronic paresthesia
Chronic paresthesia, also known as intermittent paresthesia, may originate from disorders that affect the central nervous system, such as transient ischemic attacks or strokes, multiple sclerosis or encephalitis.
Vascular lesions or tumor-like growths may press against a person’s spinal cord or brain and cause paresthesia to develop. However, the development of paresthesia from those conditions is considered rare.
In most cases, paresthesia develops after a person experiences nerve damage from infections, trauma, inflammation or other conditions. To fully understand how paresthesia develops in people, we invites our readers to take a look at the causes of the condition in the next section.
The causes and symptoms of paresthesia
Paresthesia is an interesting condition in that its symptoms originate from a wide range of possibilities. In other words, paresthesia may have many
potential causes. In the last section, we mentioned some of paresthesia’s potential causes. Here’s a brief look at more potential causes:
- Nerve irritation
- Multiple sclerosis
Some rare causes of paresthesia may include:
- Fabry disease
- Lyme disease infection
- Beta-alanine ingestion
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Lidocaine poisoning
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
Paresthesia also has orthopedic causes, typically originating from conditions that may injure and/or damage the nerves.
Those causes include back or neck injuries, bone fractures, herniated discs, osteoporosis, nerve pressure or entrapment and degenerative disc disease. Many of the aforementioned causes make people with paresthesia develop symptoms.
While paresthesia is considered a symptom of many conditions, the condition itself makes people experience symptoms.
When paresthesia is caused by another condition, people with paresthesia may experience symptoms related to that aforementioned condition; in rare cases, those symptoms might worsen their paresthesia symptoms.
Common symptoms of paresthesia typically include:
- Itching, numbness and tingling
- Foot drop
- Crawling sensation within the skin
- ‘Sleeping’ limbs, including the arms and legs
- Restless leg syndrome
- Muscular atrophy
- Ocular dysmetria
Doctors typically diagnose paresthesia based on a person’s medical history, a complete physical examination and/or laboratory testing. This typically helps them find the suspected cause of the condition.
Paresthesia may cause complications. Since it often develops from diseases affecting the nervous system or nerve damage, people with paresthesia need to seek immediate treatment to prevent themselves from experiencing any complications that might lead to permanent damage.
Some of those complications may include permanent or chronic pain, disabilities (involving mobility), paralysis, an inability to independently breathe and a permanent loss of sensation.
Of course, treatment for paresthesia helps people avoid contracting permanent or chronic complications from the condition. In the next section, we’re going to review some of those treatments.
A look at treatments for paresthesia
Treatment for paresthesia is based on the diagnosis of the condition, meaning people with different diagnoses relating to paresthesia will have different recommended treatments for their symptoms.
People with limbs that fall asleep, due to paresthesia, may be recommended stretching, exercising or massaging for their affected limbs.
This helps eliminate their tingling sensations and feelings of numbness. People who have paresthesia originating from another chronic disease may be recommended treatments aimed at providing relief for their symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, are commonly recommended for people with mild paresthesia. Severe cases of paresthesia require stronger medications.
Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, are typically given to patients with the aforementioned form of paresthesia. They’re typically administered at lower doses than what they’d be administered for depression relief.
That’s because the low dosages affect how people perceive pain within their body, providing potential relief to the parts of their body affected by paresthesia. Those with worsening paresthesia may be given opium derivatives like codeine to relieve pain.
Human nerve growth factor and paresthesia?
Human nerve growth factor, a small secreted protein, may play a role in paresthesia treatment in the future.
This small secreted protein is important for the survival, growth and maintenance of specific neurons or nerve cells, while also functioning as a signaling molecule.
As of now, it’s known to prevent or reduce neural degeneration from neruodegenerative diseases in animal models.
Due to those results, many medical researchers are exploring the possibility of human nerve growth factor playing a role in helping heal nerve degradation and restore damaged nerves.
It may be a key element in paresthesia treatment in the future, in addition to treatment for conditions like depression, dementia, depression, schizophrenia and autism.
Several alternative treatments for paresthesia also exist. They mainly help with relieving the immediate symptoms of the condition.
Nutritional therapy involves the use of vitamin supplements. Vitamin supplements, like B-complex vitamins, can help restore the nervous system’s normal functions.
Interestingly enough, B-complex vitamins like B6 should be used as directed, since an overdose of B6 is known to cause paresthesia.
Acupuncture and massages also help relief paresthesia in different ways. It’s suggested to find a massage therapist or acupuncture specialists who are trained in performing their corresponding treatments on people with paresthesia.
Self-massages also provide short term relief. Massages with aromatic oils have a soothing effect, especially when using essential oils with an active effect that soothes the skin and underlying tissue.
Some essential oils that may provide relief for paresthesia and other types of nerve pain include peppermint, sandalwood, chamomile, lavender and marjoram.