1. Health
Peter Pressman, M.D.

What is Paresthesia?

By April 16, 2012

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People mean different things when they say that a part of their body feels "numb."

Sometimes they mean that they can't feel anything at all, almost as if the body part weren't there. If the body part were to be jabbed with a fork, they wouldn't know.

Other people use the word "numb" to mean a tingling sensation, like their arm has fallen asleep. The classic description is a "pins and needles" feeling. Others mean a kind of shooting electric sensation. These are examples of paresthesias-- feelings in the body that shouldn't be there.

Transient paresthesias are extremely common. It may be difficult to imagine someone who has not experienced this sensation. They can be caused by lying on a limb, or by breathing too fast. They usually resolve quickly.

Paresthesia that doesn't go away is another matter. Chronic paresthesia is a signal that something has gone wrong with the pathways that normally allow for sensation. It is often related to the peripheral nervous system. For example, in vascular disease, the peripheral nerves may not get enough blood, and as a result send unusual messages to the brain that are interpreted as paresthesias.

To learn more about tingling and numbness, start here: Tingling and Numbness.

Comments
March 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm
(1) thomas says:

any medications

June 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm
(2) Stephanie says:

I recently had my gall blatter out & a few days later went to the emergency room thinkinng I had a stroke . My right thigh was on fire the my left arm/hand, leg/foot went completely straight out w/fingers & toes curled. Had no control. Seizure?

June 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm
(3) neurology says:

It’s hard to say if this was a seizure or something like a severe muscle spasm, though the description sounds like seizure is a possibility. Further testing, first by talking with a neurologist, may be needed.

July 2, 2013 at 5:44 am
(4) zoe hooper says:

hi i had gastric sleeve on 21st march then few days later i had a leak so they operated again then i had 2 stents put in my chest stomach then they put me asleep to take them out , well next day i had pains in my legs and now i cant feel my tummy when anyone touches it its numb also my legs are numb ish and tingling and i cant walk on them very well my legs give way . i have pins and needles 24/7 in my fingers too any ideas whats causing this please ???

February 16, 2014 at 7:28 pm
(5) Walking dead says:

Body locks up, hands numb, when done hands or particular fingers on other hand thumb weak on right and extremely sore. Sometimes starts as nausea followed by headache and now Bp 162/92. Usually started with out of breath or wore out. Even while at rest as if a reaction to emotion triggered. Entire arms both first experienced this few years ago which left me unable to clip toe nails and finger nails due to no strength n still difficult esp for one hand.

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