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Paresthesia is an abnormal condition in which a person feels a sensation of burning, numbness, tingling, or prickling. Paresthesia most often occurs in the extremities. Paresthesia is a symptom of a variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Paresthesia can result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other abnormal processes.
Depending on the cause, the sensation of paresthesia can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when it occurs due to hyperventilation, an anxiety attack or from lying on the arm while asleep. Paresthesia can also can be chronic and ongoing over a longer period of time, such as when it is due to diabetes, multiple sclerosis or peripheral neuropathy. Chronic paresthesia generally indicates some damage to the nerves.
Paresthesia can be the result of a wide variety of other conditions, diseases or disorders that damage or cause injury to the nerves. These include stroke, brain tumor, pernicious anemia or encephalitis. Paresthesia can also be present with some moderate to serious orthopedic conditions that can lead to nerve damage, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve entrapment, bone fractures or a cast that is too tight. Paresthesia can also happen from any activity that causes prolonged pressure on a nerve or nerves, such as sitting cross-legged or long distance bicycling.
Paresthesia generally occurs suddenly and is can be described in a variety of ways. Paresthesia may occur with or without pain depending on the underlying disease or disorder that causes it. There are many other symptoms that can accompany paresthesia, depending on the disease, disorder or condition that is at the root of it. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of paresthesia.
Diagnosing paresthesia and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination, including a neurological examination. Tests may include an electromyography (EMG) which tests the electrical activity of muscles. A nerve conduction test may also be ordered to measure the ability of nerves to send electrical signals. These tests can help to diagnose nerve entrapment or a pinched nerve.
Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose the underlying disease, condition or disorder causing the paresthesia. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include blood tests, urine tests, and imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans, and/or MRI.
A diagnosis of paresthesia and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because it can be mild or not last for long periods of time. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of paresthesia.
Treatment of paresthesia involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of paresthesia....more »
Tingling: Abnormal nerve sensations such as pins-and-needles, tingling, burning, prickling or similar feelings are all known as "paresthesias". They usually result from nerve damage due to pressure (such as a ...more »
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