Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences
What is Paresthesia?
Chances are you've experienced paresthesia before but just didn't know the medical term - it is the feeling of 'pins and needles' you get most commonly in the hands, arms, legs, or feet. Paresthesia is usually short-term, though some people suffer from chronic tingling, prickling, or numbness.
Why Do I Feel Pins & Needles?
Paresthesia is caused by pressure on a part of the body that cuts off the blood supply to nerves in the region. As a result, nerves stop sending signals to the brain; however, when the pressure is released, blood returns, causing the tingling or itching sensation.
A familiar scenario: you are sitting cross-legged, engrossed in Study.com's captivating lessons, for an hour. Suddenly, nature calls and when you stand up, you briefly lose your balance and suddenly get the tingling sensation through your foot and lower leg. We've all been there. Eventually the sensation goes away, but for a few minutes, you try to stay perfectly still and not so much as wiggle!
Paresthesia may also be caused by a condition known as Raynaud's disease. This condition affects the blood supply to certain parts of the body and can be triggered by cold weather, anxiety, or stress. Finally, dehydration and hyperventilation (breathing too fast) can also cause temporary paresthesia.
When the sensation lasts for a long period of time, however, it can be indicative of a more serious condition, such as diabetes, or as a side effect of treatments, such as chemotherapy (a cancer treatment). Other culprits of long term paresthesia are sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, toxicity, vitamin deficiencies, alcohol abuse, or nerve damage. Identifying whether your symptoms are short term or long term (chronic) will dictate what type of treatment is (or isn't) necessary.
If you experience long-term paresthesia, it's recommended you visit your health care provider. There are a number of tests your doctor can perform to locate the source of pressure causing the sensation. For chronic paresthesia, treatment depends on the cause. For some symptoms, over-the-counter medications may suffice but should be discussed with your doctor first. Alternative treatments including nutritional therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and simply wearing loose-fitting clothing may also help lessen symptoms. If paresthesia is a result of another medical condition, treating that underlying condition may relieve symptoms.
For temporary paresthesia, gently massaging the affected area can promote circulation, restoring blood flow to the area faster.
Paresthesia is the medical term for the tingling or feeling of 'pins and needles' you get when a part of your body is 'asleep.' Really, this just means that nerves are being compressed, blocking blood flow to a part of the body. The tingles start when you move, unblocking the vessel, and blood starts free flowing again. Until circulation is completely restored, you feel the tingles or itch.
Most cases of paresthesia are short-term and temporary; however, long-term cases have been documented and may be symbolic of another medical condition. When in doubt, visit your doctor to discuss symptoms and possible treatment options.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack