Paresthesia is the condition commonly known as “pins and needles,” where part of the body – typically a foot or hand – begins to tingle and becomes numb, or “falls asleep.” Paresthesia can occur either on a temporary or on a chronic basis. In most cases, paresthesia is a short-term condition caused by putting pressure on a nerve, and the tingling sensation will diminish within several minutes.

When someone experiences paresthesia on a regular basis, however, it could indicate a more substantial problem within the body. Frequent cases of paresthesia can be symptoms that neurons in the brain are malfunctioning, and are not properly relaying signals to the brain. In such cases, the neural problems may be related to malnutrition, diabetes, a thyroid condition, or another medical problem.

In addition to problems with neuron function, chronic cases of paresthesia can also be associated with damage to the nerves themselves. Some likely causes of nerve damage are Lyme Disease or multiple sclerosis; a brain tumor can also have similar effects. For people who are experiencing a “pins and needles” sensation on a frequent basis, it is important to see a doctor who can test for any of the serious conditions that may cause paresthesia.

Treatment for paresthesia depends on the underlying cause of the problem. In ordinary cases of the temporary “pins and needles,” the sensation can generally be relieved by vigorous movement of the affected limb. Generally, as soon as pressure on the nerve is relieved, the problem will begin to go away on its own. When the paresthesia is related to a more severe condition, the sensation of numbness will often be cured with the treatment for the condition. Patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis frequently take prescribed drugs that alleviate many of their symptoms, including paresthesia.

Some forms of alternative therapy may also help get rid of paresthesia. For example, as paresthesia is often related to a vitamin deficiency, it may be helpful to take vitamin supplements, as recommended by a physician. Massage and acupuncture have also been known to help treat paresthesia.


Other causes of paresthesias related to disorders of the peripheral nerves include:

  • Metabolic or nutritional disturbances. These disturbances include diabetes, hypothyroidism (a condition caused by too little activity of the thyroid gland), alcoholism, malnutrition, and vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Trauma. Trauma includes injuries that crush, sever, or pull on nerves.
  • Inflammation.
  • Connective tissue disease. These diseases include arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (a chronic inflammatory disease that affects many systems of the body, including the nervous system), polyarteritis nodosa (a vascular disease that causes widespread inflammation and ischemia of small and medium-size arteries), and Sjögren’s syndrome (a disorder marked by insufficient moisture in the tear ducts, salivary glands, and other glands).
  • Toxins. Toxins include heavy metals (metallic elements such as arsenic, lead, and mercury which can, in large amounts, cause poisoning), certain antibiotics and chemotherapy agents, solvents, and overdose of pyridoxine (vitamin B6).
  • Malignancy.
  • Infections. Infections include Lyme disease, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and leprosy.
  • Hereditary disease. These diseases include Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (a hereditary disorder that causes wasting of the leg muscles, resulting in malformation of the foot), porphyria (a group of inherited disorders in which there is abnormally increased production of substances called porphyrins), and Denny-Brown’s syndrome (a hereditary disorder of the nerve root). 

    Paresthesias can also be caused by central nervous system disturbances, including stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack), tumor, trauma, multiple sclerosis, or infection.

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    ~ by pcl4 on September 1, 2008.

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