What is numbness and tingling?

Numbness and Tingling
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Numbness and tingling: Overview

Many things can cause numbness or tingling. Swelling may put pressure on a nerve. This could cause you to lose feeling or have a pins-and-needles sensation on part of your body. Nerves may be damaged from trauma, toxins, or diseases, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis (MS). Sometimes, though, the cause is not clear.

If there is no clear reason for your symptoms, and you are not having any other symptoms, your doctor may suggest watching and waiting for a while to see if the numbness or tingling goes away on its own. Your doctor may want you to have blood or nerve tests to find the cause of your symptoms.

Numbness and tingling

Numbness is the inability to feel anything when your skin is touched. Tingling (paresthesia) is a pins-and-needles sensation, like when your foot "falls asleep."

How can you care for your numbness and tingling?

  • If you have numbness or tingling, it's easier to lose your balance and fall. At home:
    • Remove throw rugs and clutter.
    • Install sturdy handrails on stairways.
    • Put grab bars near your shower, bathtub, and toilet.
    • Use a cane or walker if needed.
    • Use night-lights to help you see better.
  • To protect your hands:
    • Use pot holders, and avoid hot water when you are cooking.
    • Always check your bath or shower using a part of your body that can feel temperature normally, such as your elbow.
  • Get enough sleep. Constant numbness or tingling can make you more tired. If the pain makes it hard to sleep, talk with your doctor.
    • If your doctor prescribes medicine, take it exactly as directed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
    • If you have any swelling, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Numbness and tingling: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have weakness, numbness, or tingling in both legs.
  • You lose bowel or bladder control.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems, or if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.