A paresthesia is an abnormal sensation of tingling, numbness, or burning. Paresthesias are usually felt in the hands, feet, arms, or legs, but can be felt anywhere. The sensation is usually unpleasant.
Most people have experienced paresthesia, in the form of the pins-and-needles sensation that occurs when an arm or leg briefly “falls asleep.” The sensation is caused by sustained pressure placed on a nerve. This kind of paresthesia is temporary and reversible.
Paresthesias can also occur regularly, when nerves experience ongoing or lasting damage. Some of the causes of chronic or persistent paresthesias include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Meralgia paresthetica (numbness over the outer thigh)
- Compression of a nerve in the spine (radiculopathy)
- Restless legs syndrome
- Shingles (herpes zoster)
- Stroke or transient ischemic attack
- Multiple sclerosis
- Transverse myelitis
The treatment for paresthesias depends on the cause. If a reversible cause is present, treating it should help improve the paresthesia symptoms.
For paresthesias that can’t be cured, medicines that act on nerves may be helpful for some people.
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