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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is paresthesia?
Paresthesia is numbness, tingling, or burning. It can happen in any part of your body, but usually occurs in your legs, feet, arms, or hands.
What causes paresthesia?
A large number of conditions can cause paresthesia. Nerves that provide sensation are affected. Paresthesia happens because of changes in these nerves, or in nerve pathways. The changes can be temporary, such as if you take certain medicines or you are not getting enough vitamin B. Nerve damage can lead to permanent paresthesia. Conditions that may cause nerve damage include diabetes, carpel tunnel syndrome, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. The exact cause of your paresthesia may not be known.
What should I tell my healthcare provider about what I feel?
You can help your healthcare provider by describing anything you feel, such as the following:
- No feeling in the affected area
- A feeling of pins and needles
- An electric shock feeling
- Trouble moving the affected area
- A feeling that something is crawling under your skin
- A feeling of burning or of cold in the affected area
How is paresthesia diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell your provider when the symptoms began. Include anything that makes your symptoms worse or better. Your provider will also need to know if you have a disease or condition that could be causing your symptoms. Tell him or her about the medicines you take. Include the amounts you take and when you take each medicine. You may also need any of the following:
- Blood tests may show low levels of vitamin B or a high blood sugar level.
- X-ray, MRI, or CT scan pictures may show damage to the area where you have paresthesia. You may be given contrast liquid to help the area show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause severe injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
- Nerve conduction studies may be done to test your nerve function.
How is paresthesia treated?
Treatment will depend on what is causing your paresthesia. You may need to increase the amount of vitamin B in your blood. Your healthcare provider may change or stop a medicine you are taking that is causing your symptoms. Permanent paresthesia may be helped with nerve medicine. If you have diabetes, your healthcare provider or diabetes specialist can help you control your blood sugar levels. Your provider may recommend a splint or surgery if you have paresthesia caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
What can I do to manage paresthesia?
- Protect the area from injury. You may injure or burn yourself if you lose feeling in the area. Be careful when you touch anything that could be hot. Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet. Ask about other ways to protect yourself.
- Go to physical or occupational therapy if directed. Your provider may recommend therapy if you have a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen the area or increase your ability to move it. An occupational therapist can help you find new ways to do your daily activities.
- Manage health conditions that can cause paresthesia. Work with your diabetes specialist if you have uncontrolled diabetes. A dietitian or your healthcare provider can help you create a meal plan if you have low vitamin B levels. Your provider can help you manage your health if you have multiple sclerosis or you had a stroke. It is important to manage health conditions to stop paresthesia or prevent it from getting worse.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have severe pain along with numbness and tingling.
- Your legs suddenly become cold. You have trouble moving your legs, and they ache.
- You have increased weakness in a part of your body.
- You have uncontrolled movements.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- Your symptoms do not improve.
- You have symptoms in more than one part of your body.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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