Tingling and Numbness-An Overview
Sometimes when we sleep wrong or sit with the legs crossed for a long period of time, we start to experience an unusual prickling sensation in the arm or the legs. It feels as if you have lost sensation in that part of the body and the blood is not flowing through that part of the body. This sensation is called as tingling and numbness sensation. In medical terminology this sensation is termed as paresthesias. These sensations usually occur in the arm and feet, although it may occur anywhere in the body.
Tingling and numbness may be caused due to numerous reasons the most common of which is sitting with the legs crossed for a long time and falling asleep on the arms.
Generally, these symptoms of tingling and numbness go away on their own when you shake the hand or leg and the blood flow returns to normal but when this does not happen and you get tingling and numbness persistently then it may be a sign of an underlying disease condition which is causing this tingling and numbness. The disease condition could be as simple as a carpal tunnel syndrome to as complex as a multiple sclerosis.
Another potential cause for tingling and numbness is sometimes a pinched nerve or a compressed nerve as a result of a herniated disc in the spine which may cause symptoms of tingling and numbness which may radiate down to the extremities.
Diagnosing the cause for tingling and numbness is a complex task as a lot of tests need to be done to rule in or rule out various medical conditions. Treatment for tingling and numbness depends on the underlying cause of it and once the cause is treated then there is a drastic improvement in the symptoms of tingling and numbness.
What Causes Tingling and Numbness?
As stated, there are many potential causes of tingling and numbness. Some of the causes of tingling and numbness are mentioned below. These causes are:
- Sitting or standing without moving for a prolonged period of time.
- Nerve injury either due to a trauma to the neck or back or due to a disc herniation in the cervical or lumbar spine can also cause tingling and numbness.
- Compression of the nerves due to disc herniation.
- Pressure on the nerves due to blood vessel enlargement, tumor, or an infection can also cause tingling and numbness.
- Infectious process like shingles or herpes zoster.
- Tingling and numbness can also be a result of lack of proper blood flow to the affected area due to atherosclerosis, frostbite, or inflammation of a vessel.
- Abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium in the body can also cause tingling and numbness.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Certain medications have also shown to cause tingling and numbness.
- Abuse of alcohol and tobacco can also cause tingling and numbness
- People undergoing radiation therapy for some form of cancer can experience symptoms of tingling and numbness.
- Certain insect and animal bites and toxic seafoods also tend to cause Tingling and Numbness.
There are also certain medical conditions that can also cause tingling and numbness. These conditions are:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from compression of the median nerve at the wrist causing tingling and numbness.
- Diabetes mellitus is also a condition which has shown to cause tingling and numbness
- Multiple sclerosis is also a medical condition which has tingling and numbness as a symptom
- People suffering from seizure disorder can also have tingling and numbness
- Stroke also has a tendency to cause tingling and numbness.
What are the Associated Symptoms that Occur with Tingling and Numbness which are of Concern?
Tingling and Numbness occurring once in a while if you slept wrong or had been sitting or standing without moving for a prolonged period of time is quite common and does not have any other associated symptoms with it. This form of Tingling and Numbness goes away on its own and is not a cause of concern.
However, if you see no obvious cause for tingling and numbness and it is becoming persistent and not going away then a consultation with a physician needs to be entertained especially if they are accompanied by certain other symptoms like dizziness, muscle spasms, development of a rash, worsening of symptoms with ambulation, increased urinary frequency. If you experience Tingling and Numbness immediately following an injury to the neck, back, or head which does not go away on its own then also it is a cause of concern.
Certain other associated symptoms that you need to look out for with Tingling and Numbness are confusion, problems focusing, vision disturbances, severe pain, weakness, and loss of control of bowel and bladder. All these symptoms indicate a potentially serious underlying problem and require emergent medical attention.
How is the Cause of Tingling and Numbness Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a cause for the tingling and numbness is a complex affair. This starts with the physician taking a detailed history of the patient including a history of whether there have been any recent injuries to the neck or back or any head injuries with loss of consciousness. The physician may also ask if the patient has any weakness in the extremities. The physician will also inquire as to whether the patient is able to grip and grasp objects normally or if there is a history of the patient dropping objects which may point to a carpal tunnel syndrome as a cause for the patient’s Tingling and Numbness.
The physician will also inquire as to what medications that the patient is taking to check whether that might be causing the tingling and numbness. The physician may inquire as to the social history of the patient to check whether the patient is into the habit of alcohol or tobacco abuse, or eats seafood which might be toxic for the body. Once history taking is done, then the physician will order certain laboratory tests to check for blood levels or vitamin deficiency that may be causing tingling and numbness. The physician will also check for thyroid levels as an underactive thyroid also tends to cause tingling and numbness. The physician may also order EMG and nerve conduction studies to rule out a carpal tunnel syndrome. Apart from this an MRI or CT scan may be ordered to rule out or rule in conditions like multiple sclerosis and the like as a potential cause for Tingling and Numbness.
How to Get Rid of Tingling and Numbness?
The treatment to get rid of tingling and numbness depends on the underlying diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed then the physician can formulate a treatment plan to help with the symptoms. Once the underlying conditions get treated then it may improve the symptoms of Tingling and Numbness or even help in relieving it.
If carpal tunnel syndrome is a cause for tingling and numbness then wrist braces and splints may be given for relief. If the condition is severe then a nerve decompression or a carpal tunnel release may be performed to get rid of the symptoms of Tingling and Numbness.
Similarly for diabetes, blood sugar control holds the key for improvement of symptoms of Tingling and Numbness. If your blood sugar is controlled either by means of medications or by diet alone then it will go a long way in helping the symptoms of Tingling and Numbness.
Vitamin supplements are prescribed to get rid of tingling and numbness caused due to vitamin deficiency.
If certain medications are responsible for Tingling and Numbness then the medication may need to be switched to a different medication.
In case of a disc herniation in the spine causing symptoms of Tingling and Numbness then there are a variety of treatments available for such but the most preferred one is a surgical decompression of the nerve which helps not only the symptoms of pain and difficulty with doing tasks but also help in improving Tingling and Numbness.
When to Contact A Medical Professional for Tingling and Numbness?
Below mentioned are certain scenarios where you need emergent medical attention:
- You have tingling and numbness along with weakness or inability to move.
- Numbness or tingling occuring just after a head, neck, or back trauma.
- Involuntary movements of the arm or leg along with tingling and numbness
- Loss of control of bowel and bladder along with tingling and numbness
- Confusion with loss of consciousness even for a very short period of time with accompanying tingling and numbness
- Slurred speech along with tingling and numbness
- Vision problems along with tingling and numbness.