what is Paresthesia – Sign, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Have you ever felt a burning or tingling sensation in your feet, fingers, toes, or hands after staying in one position for a long span of time?

Or do you feel numbness in some parts of the body, which you can’t explain. If so, do not fret. These might only be signs of paresthesia.

Depending on the cause, these sensations may disappear quickly, which means it can be temporary.

At some point in your life, you might have sat with legs crossed for a long time or might have fallen into deep slumber with one arm under the head and may have experienced paresthesia.

Actually, paresthesia is not really a life-threatening condition, especially if it is temporary.

With a better understanding about this, you will feel safe and confident in handling your body. But then again, there are instances when these are severe. So having sufficient knowledge about the subject really helps.

As complex as the name suggests, there are many other things you need to know about paresthesia. Let’s begin with its definition.

What Is Paresthesia

By definition, paresthesia is the burning, prickling, or twitching sensation that a person feels in his arms, legs, feet, hands, or in some other parts of the body. This sensation, which happens without any warning, is normally painless. This is also always associated with tingling, itching, or numbness.

Basically, paresthesia only happens when there is sustained pressure put onto a nerve. And as soon as the pressure is relieved, the sensation will fade eventually.

Sometimes, this sensation is considered a sign of an underlying neurological disease or a traumatic nerve damage. It may be caused by problems that affect the central nervous system of the body, which include multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, strokes, or transverse myelitis. A vascular lesion or a tumor up against the spinal cord or brain may also result in paresthesia.

So now that you know what is paresthesia, let us dig deeper into its common causes.

Common Causes of Paresthesia

The symptoms of paresthesia varies from one person to another. Aside from that, the possible causes differ as well. Below are just some of them.


A migraine is a neurological disease that is characterized by recurring headaches that can either be moderate or severe. In most situations, the headache affects only one side of the head and lasts from 2 hours to 3 days. When physical activities are involved, the pain may become worse. Symptoms associated with migraine are sensitivity to smell, sound, and light, nausea, and vomiting. If diagnosed with this disease, a person may experience temporary loss of sight and seeing flashing spots or lights.

Migrain cocktail can help to relieve these pain.


Fibromyalgia is more like a chronic pain felt in response to pressure. Its symptoms include sleep disturbance and joint stiffness. Research suggests that fibromyalgia may amplify any painful sensation by simply interfering the way the brain processes every pain signal. People with fibromyalgia may experience pain in their ligaments and tendons.


Also called low blood sugar, hypoglycemia occurs when there is a drop in the blood glucose levels. This may happen in an instant, but is often very mild. By eating glucose-rich food like potatoes, cereals, milk, rice, sweets, and carbohydrate-rich foods, this can be quickly treated. When untreated, this can become worse and may result in fainting, confusion, and clumsiness. The symptoms of hypoglycemia include, but are not limited to, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, sudden hunger, forgetfulness, and shakiness.

Herpes Zoster or Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection that can cause a painful rash. Though it can happen in different parts of the body, it commonly shows up as single lines of blisters that wrap one side of the torso. This is not a life-threatening condition, but it can be very painful. Shingles is very common in adults and individuals with very weak immune systems. While early treatment can prevent this infection, there are also vaccines that could help reduce the chance of complications.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a result of different medical disorders that may increase a person’s risk to cardiovascular diseases. In several studies, it is said that about 25% of the population in the United States has this disorder.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, also called the Lyme borreliosis, is a communicable disease brought about by a type of bacteria called Borrelia. Its most common symptom is redness that starts at the area bitten. It can either be painful or itchy. When left untreated, a person may be unable to move one or both sides of his face and may feel severe headaches and heart palpitations.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Otherwise called the Gullain-Barre-Strohl syndrome, the Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder where the immune system of the body attacks the nerves. A tingling sensation in the extremities and weakness are among the first symptoms of the disorder. It is then triggered by an infection.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases may occur due to an abnormal response of the body against other substances and tissues that are already in the body. Basically, the immune system protects us from infections and diseases. However, if you have autoimmune diseases, your immune system will attack the healthy cells present in the body by mistake. To stabilize the body, immunosuppressive medicines are prescribed. Among these are non-steroid drugs like cyclophosphamide, tacrolimus, sirolimus, as well as corticosteroids.


Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease, which occurs when the immune system of the body attacks the organs and tissues. Although this may take various forms, the systematic lupus erythematosus is the most common type, which is known to harm the internal organs of the body, such as lungs, liver, kidneys, and heart. Lupus is often characterised by heat, loss of function and pain outside or inside of the body, swelling, and redness.

Fabry Disease

Fabry disease is a disorder that is caused by the formation or buildup of a specific type of fat known as globotriaosylceramide in the cells of the body. Its symptoms include clusters of dark red spots on the skin, deterioration in the body’s ability to sweat, complications in the gastrointestinal system of the body, tinnitus, hearing loss, and cloudiness of the eyes’ cornea.


Neuropathy is the popular term used to describe a complication in the nerves, particularly the peripheral nerves. It is often associated with various medical conditions, but may also exist without any possible cause.


Hyperventilation is also called over-breathing because it often leaves a person feeling breathless. It normally occurs with panic or anxiety.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a disabling disease in the brain and spinal cord. In this condition, the immune system attacks the protective layer of the body that covers the nerve fibers. Hence, there will be problems in communicating between your brain and body. If this disease persists, the nerves will begin to deteriorate and possibly become damaged permanently.

Common Symptoms of Paresthesia

Interestingly, paresthesia can be considered a sign of other conditions, but it can either be transient or chronic. What’s the difference between the two?


Paresthesia felt in the arms, legs, hands, and feet are considered transient symptoms. The quickest electric type of paresthesia might be the result of tweaking the ulnar nerve located near the elbow. Similarly, these brief shocks can be felt when other nerves are tugged.

The most common cause of transient paresthesia is temporary blockage of nerve impulses to a certain area or nerves. Other causes are panic attacks and hyperventilation syndrome.


Chronic paresthesia happens due to poor circulation in the limbs that is caused by the buildup of plaque within the walls of the artery. When there is a lack of supply of nutrients and blood, nerve cells are no longer capable of sending signals to the brain. As a result, paresthesia is said to be a sign of vitamin deficiency, diabetes, hypoparathryoidism, diabetes, and malnutrition.


In the world of dentistry, paresthesia also exists. It is called persistent anesthesia. It usually happens after administering local anesthesia and injecting anesthetics. This is often a result of trauma introduced to the nerve lining when administering the injection.

Other Symptoms

If paresthesia is caused by one specific condition, there are other additional signs that may be experienced by a person, which is still related to the cause. These include the following:

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Spinal muscular atrophy or SMA is categorized as a hereditary disease that may cause weakness of the voluntary muscles in both the legs and arms. It commonly affects children and infants. As of the moment, there is no treatment for this. However, experts deal with this by identifying the symptoms to prevent further complications.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Otherwise called the Willis-Ekbom disease, the restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that is distinguishable because of an unstoppable urge to move one’s body to stop odd sensations or relieve discomfort. It often affects the legs, but can still affect the arms, head, torso, and the phatom limbs. The sensations involved in this disease include aching or pain in the muscles, tickling feeling that doesn’t stop, and itching that can’t be stopped.

Ocular Dysmetria

Ocular dysmetria is a disease that involves frequent over- or under-shooting of the eyes, when trying to focus onto something. This happens because there are lesions in the cerebellum – the part of the brain that is responsible for movement coordination.

Diagnosing Paresthesia

Normally, paresthesia is diagnosed by determining the underlying condition that causes a person to experience these paresthesia sensations. The evaluation includes checking the medical history of a person through a series of laboratory tests and physical examinations. Yet, there are times when a doctor orders some other tests depending on the possible cause of the paresthesia.


The treatment of paresthesia may depend on the diagnosis of the underlying cause. For those persons who have limbs that may have fallen asleep, it can be quickly restored through stretching, massaging the affected limb, or exercising. Through such activities, the sensations of numbness and tingling are quickly dissipated.

If the paresthesia is caused by a chronic disease like diabetes or if it happens after treatments like chemotherapy, the treatments are done to relieve the symptoms. These include providing anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen.

On the other hand, if this is the result of fibromyalgia, one has to book an appointment with a professional. It is likely that doctors will suggest making changes in a person’s lifestyle to relieve this painful symptom.

There are also instances when people with complex paresthesia are given antidepressant medications, such as amitriptyline. Although these are administered at a much lower dosage, they are intended to relieve depression.

Research suggests that these medications can help because they change the perception of a person about pain. For instance, if a person is suffering from severe paresthesia, opium derivatives like codeine are prescribed.

However, the treatment alternatives are not limited. There are other options available that help relieve symptoms of paresthesia. Nutritional therapy is among them. In this therapy, B complex vitamin is being adhered and supplemented. But experts warn that vitamin supplementation must be done with caution. This is because an overdose of vitamins, such that of vitamin B6, may cause to paresthesia.

In traditional medicine, massage and acupuncture are said to relieve the symptoms of paresthesia. The use of aromatic oils and topical ointments are sometimes effective as well.


If you think you are experiencing paresthesia, it is best that you seek help from professionals. Do not just do self-medication. Talk with a doctor right away and ask for the best possible treatment for you. As they say, doctors know best and there is no other best place to go for treatment than their clinic.

Also, you should know how important is resting. If possible, you might need to change your lifestyle both at work and at home. You never know how avoiding some small activities can impact your body and make it better than ever.

Well, if you are a bit hesitant, you can do a careful research at first. Once you get a better understanding of paresthesia, confirm what you’ve learned from pros.

Dr. Sachin

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 5 comments
Luke Yancey - November 9, 2016

My boss at work was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. You are completely right when you said that paresthesia is a symptom of the disease. In fact, it was one of the first things she noticed. I am also glad that you advised everyone who is experiencing the symptoms to go and have it checked out by a doctor. It can be crucial that you catch the cause of it early on rather than later.

Jon Wexler - August 24, 2017

Your comments on treating diabetic paraesthesia are limited to using aspirin and ibuprofen, assuming that anti-inflammatories are indicated. What is the basis for this? What is the demonstrable association of inflammation with T.2. diabetic paraesthesia? Have you said all that’s of relevance to this topic?

    Dr. Sachin - November 11, 2017

    Nerve damage in Diabetes leads to paresthesia.
    But causes of nerve damage can vary. Long-standing high blood sugar level can trigger the nerve damage that ends in neuropathy. Also, other causes can contribute including autoimmune factors that may cause an inflammation in nerves.

Denay - November 11, 2017

I was recently diagnosed with Parathesia, I don’t feel bad but my foot is asleep. I went to the ER blood work came back normal but Parathesia is still here. What could it be? Please help


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