What is Tingling in the Body?

Medically Reviewed By Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
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Tingling is an unusual sensation most commonly felt in your hands, feet, arms, and legs. Tingling is often associated with numbness or being unable to feel certain sensations, such as pressure or texture. The medical term for tingling is “parasthesia.” According to the National Health Service (NHS), tingling is linked to a wide variety of conditions, including prolonged pressure on a nerve, lack of vitamins and minerals, multiple sclerosis, and stroke, among many others.

Tingling may only be mildly uncomfortable and can happen due to pressure on a nerve. For example, your foot or leg can fall asleep if you have been sitting in the same position for a long time.

Tingling can also signify more serious permanent nerve damage or an underlying condition. Therefore, it is important to work out the cause of any unexplained tingling.

This article will explain what tingling is, the symptoms, underlying causes, and when to contact a healthcare professional.

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Dominic Dähncke/Stocksy United

What other symptoms might occur with tingling?

Tingling can accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition. Symptoms may include:

  • cold skin or skin that is paler than usual in the same or nearby area
  • weakness in muscles
  • numbness in or around the area
  • pain in the same or nearby area
  • rash, particularly one occuring on the side of the torso
  • seizures
  • convulsions
  • sudden change in vision, loss of vision, or eye pain

In some cases, tingling may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

When to contact a doctor

Seek medical attention if you experience tingling alongside:

What causes tingling?

Tingling can happen due to a wide variety of conditions. A common cause of tingling is a compressed nerve.

Other causes of tingling include head and neck injuries, loss of blood flow to an area, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, among many other causes.

Compression-related causes of tingling

Tingling may be the result of a compression injury, an injury that compresses a nerve, such as:

  • remaining in the same position for too long
  • fracture
  • a herniated disk that
  • a neck or back injury
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • pressure on a nerve from a growing mass or tumor

Disease-related causes of tingling

Tingling can also be the result of a variety of diseases or conditions, including:

  • diabetes, a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy
  • inactive or underactive thyroid
  • infections such as shingles
  • migraine or headache
  • multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord which causes weakness, coordination and balance difficulties, and other problems
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation
  • seizures or convulsions
  • stroke
  • transient ischemic attack, stroke-like symptoms that are temporary and could be a warning sign of an impending stroke

Other causes of tingling

Tingling can also happen due to various other conditions, including:

  • tobacco or alcohol use
  • deficiency or excess of minerals such as potassium, calcium, or sodium
  • heavy metal poisoning
  • medication side effects or interactions
  • radiation exposure or radiation therapy
  • vitamin B1 deficiency

Serious or life threatening causes of tingling

In some cases, tingling may be a symptom of a life threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These conditions include:

Visit our brain and nerves hub to learn more.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of tingling

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed healthcare professional may ask you several questions related to your tingling including:

  • When did you first notice the tingling?
  • Have you had any recent injuries that preceded the tingling?
  • Do you have any other symptoms associated with your tingling?
  • Where on your body do you notice the tingling?
  • Is the tingling better or worse at any certain time of day?
  • Is the tingling improving or getting worse?
  • Do you get the tingling when doing a repetitive motion, such as typing or sitting for long periods?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of tingling?

Tingling is a sign of complications with the way your nerves function. The complications of tingling vary widely, depending on the underlying cause.

Because tingling can occur due to serious conditions, serious complications and permanent damage are possible without medical treatment.

Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your doctor design to reduce the risk of potential complications, including:

  • amputation
  • coma or unconsciousness
  • loss of vision and blindness
  • paralysis
  • spread of cancer
  • weakness

What are ways to treat tingling or numbness?

Firstly, it is important to determine why parts of your body are tingling.

Successful treatment for any tingling sensations depends on an accurate diagnosis and cause.

Simple lifestyle changes can be made to protect nerve cells, including:

  • adding more B vitamins to your diet, such as B1, B6, and B12
  • drinking plenty of water
  • eating nutritious gluten-free grains, such as quinoa
  • eating healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil
  • daily moderate exercise

Prescriptions

Medications for any tingling sensations will vary according to the underlying cause.

Summary

Tingling is a sensation most commonly felt in your hands and feet, as well as many other parts of your body. Tingling can also feel like numbness and can be the result of a wide variety of conditions.

Compression issues such as fractures can also cause tingling, as well as illnesses such as multiple sclerosis.

Common symptoms can include pain and numbness in the area, but more serious symptoms may include loss of consciousness, loss of vision, and paralysis.

If any serious symptoms occur whilst experiencing a tingling sensation, be sure to seek immediate medical care.

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Medical Reviewer: Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
Last Review Date: 2022 Mar 3
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.