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Numbness And Tingling: Why Do We Feel Numbness & Tingling In Hands And Legs

Do you ever feel numbness and tingling in your hands and legs? If yes, then you must know its cause to avoid complications.

Vivek Singh
Numbness & Tingling In Hands And Legs  (Photo Courtesy: Freepik)
Numbness & Tingling In Hands And Legs (Photo Courtesy: Freepik)

Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that are often described as a "pins and needles" feeling or a loss of sensation in a specific area of the body. These sensations can be caused by a wide range of underlying medical conditions, and they can occur in various parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, arms, legs, or face. The medical term for numbness and tingling is “paresthesia.”

Many things can cause numbness and tingling, including sitting with your legs crossed or falling asleep on your arm. Sometimes numbness and tingling persist, and there’s no obvious cause for the sensations. They could be symptoms of a condition, such as multiple sclerosis, or an injury. Sometimes, it may require urgent care to avoid complications. Treatment for numbness and tingling will depend on your diagnosis.

What Causes Numbness And Tingling?

Numbness and tingling, also known as paresthesia, can be caused by a wide range of underlying medical conditions. Here are some common causes of numbness and tingling:

Pressure on Nerves: Temporary numbness and tingling can occur when pressure is applied to nerves. This can happen when you sit or sleep in an awkward position, but it typically resolves once you change your posture.

Poor Blood Circulation: Reduced blood flow to a specific area of the body can lead to numbness and tingling. Conditions like peripheral artery disease (PAD) can restrict blood flow to the extremities.

Nerve Compression: Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome (compression of the median nerve in the wrist), sciatica (compression of the sciatic nerve in the lower back and buttocks), or a herniated disc in the spine can compress nerves and cause numbness and tingling in the affected area.

Neurological Disorders: Various neurological conditions can lead to numbness and tingling, including:

  • Multiple Sclerosis: An autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, leading to a wide range of neurological symptoms.

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Damage to peripheral nerves, often caused by conditions like diabetes, alcohol abuse, or certain infections.

  • Stroke: A disruption of blood flow to the brain can result in numbness or weakness on one side of the body.

Vitamin Deficiencies: Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin B12 and certain minerals like potassium and calcium, can cause neurological symptoms, including numbness and tingling.

Infections: Some infections, such as shingles, Lyme disease, or HIV, can lead to neurological symptoms, including numbness and tingling.

Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can affect nerves and cause these sensations.

Medications: Certain medications, especially chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics, can cause peripheral neuropathy, resulting in numbness and tingling.

Metabolic Disorders: Conditions like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and kidney disease can affect nerve function and lead to paresthesia.

Trauma or Injury: Physical trauma, such as a sports injury, car accident, or repetitive stress injuries, can damage nerves and lead to numbness and tingling.

If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent numbness and tingling, it's crucial to seek medical evaluation. A healthcare provider can conduct a thorough examination, order appropriate tests, and determine the underlying cause of the symptoms. Treatment will depend on the specific diagnosis and may involve addressing the underlying condition, medications, physical therapy, or lifestyle changes.

When To Get Medical Attention For Numbness And Tingling?

Numbness and tingling are sensations that can occasionally affect anyone. You may have encountered these feelings before when you got up after remaining seated for an extended period. Typically, they tend to subside within a few minutes.

Nevertheless, it's advisable to seek medical advice if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent numbness and tingling without an apparent reason

  • Episodes of dizziness

  • Muscle spasms

  • The presence of a rash

It's important to inform your doctor if you notice any worsening of symptoms in your legs when walking or if you experience an increase in urination frequency compared to your usual patterns.

Numbness And Tingling: Treatment Options

The treatment options for numbness and tingling depend on the underlying cause of these symptoms. It's essential to determine the specific cause through a thorough medical evaluation before pursuing treatment. Here are some common approaches to managing numbness and tingling:

Addressing Underlying Medical Conditions: Treating the underlying condition causing the numbness and tingling is often the primary focus. For example:

  • If the cause is diabetes, maintaining good blood sugar control is crucial.

  • In the case of vitamin deficiencies, supplementation with the deficient vitamin may be recommended.

  • For neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis or neuropathy, treatments may include medications to manage symptoms and slow disease progression.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapists can help with exercises and techniques to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination, which can alleviate symptoms and improve function.

Medications: Depending on the cause and severity of numbness and tingling, medications may be prescribed:

  • Pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs may help with conditions causing nerve compression or inflammation.

  • Anticonvulsant medications can be effective for neuropathic pain.

  • In some cases, antidepressants are used to manage chronic pain associated with nerve disorders.

Nerve Blocks: For localized pain or specific nerve compression issues, a healthcare provider may administer nerve blocks, which involve injecting medication around or into the affected nerve to provide temporary relief.

Lifestyle Modifications: Lifestyle changes can be beneficial, such as:

  • Adjusting ergonomics at work to reduce repetitive stress injuries.

  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques and mindfulness.

  • Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine to improve overall health and circulation.

Braces and Splints: These devices can help support and immobilize affected areas, reducing pressure on nerves. For example, wrist splints can be used for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Surgery: In cases of severe nerve compression, like herniated discs or carpal tunnel syndrome that doesn't respond to conservative treatments, surgical procedures may be recommended to relieve pressure on the affected nerves.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Some individuals find relief from therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or herbal supplements. However, the effectiveness of these treatments can vary, and it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider before trying them.

Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists can assist with adapting daily activities to accommodate numbness and tingling, improving functional independence.

The choice of treatment depends on the specific diagnosis and the severity of symptoms. It's crucial to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to your needs. Additionally, managing any underlying medical conditions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can play a significant role in reducing and preventing numbness and tingling.

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