Abnormal Sensations (Paraesthesia)

Numbness, tingling and other sensations that have physical or psychological causes are called paresthesias. They are usually triggered by nerve diseases and, depending on the severity, can be treated well.

Abnormal Sensations (Paraesthesia)

What are discomforts?

Abnormal sensations or paresthesias are unusual sensory perceptions such as tingling, burning or stinging. They feel like pinpricks and are usually triggered by pinched nerves, damage to the nerve tracts or by pressure. See ablogtophone for KS which stands for Kostmann Syndrome.

Paresthesia can occur on any part of the body. However, the complaints are mainly limited to the hands and feet. A well-known form of discomfort is something called “sleeping leg”, which most people have experienced at some point. It is triggered by a disruption in blood supply and the resulting lack of oxygen and glucose. Other forms have similar causes.


Discomfort can have many causes. Pressure on a nerve tract, hyperventilation, migraines or myofascial pain often occur.

Permanent disorders of the nerve cells such as neuropathies also lead to abnormal sensations. These are also chronic and are triggered by metabolic diseases such as so-called hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus or diabetic neuropathy.

Neurological system diseases such as multiple sclerosis and poisoning from certain medications, alcohol or heavy metals also trigger permanent paraesthesia. Likewise, the overdose of antiepileptic drugs. If only certain skin areas are affected, the causes lie in diseases or injuries to certain nerves.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Paresthesias are abnormal sensations that are mainly noticeable through tingling and numbness. All parts of the body can be affected by these so-called sensory disorders. However, they most commonly occur in the feet, fingers, and hands. Pain is rarely observed in paresthesia.

In addition to tingling and pins and needles, some affected people can also experience burning or stinging. The stinging then feels like pinpricks. Heat and cold perception disorders can also occur. Overall, paresthesias are characterized by extremely unpleasant sensations, which, however, do not always have to be limited to certain body regions.

In severe cases, they can affect the entire body. A distinction is made between two forms of paresthesia. It is a so-called transient (temporary) and a chronic form. A typical example of transient paresthesia is the sleeping leg or arm, which everyone is already familiar with. Here, the oxygen supply to the nerves is usually temporarily reduced due to circulatory disorders.

However, the chronic forms of paresthesia can also be caused by serious diseases. Since the nerve endings are permanently damaged here, the symptoms remain chronic or can even worsen. A typical example of this is diabetic neuropathy of the foot, which often develops into what is known as diabetic foot.

Diagnosis & History

In the case of abnormal sensations, the exact diagnosis can only be made with some effort. It must be determined in advance on which parts of the body the disorders occur, in what form they occur and whether they occur permanently or in phases.

As a rule, the diagnosis is followed by an anamnesis by the doctor and an X-ray or CT examination. If chronic nerve damage is suspected, the doctor checks the reflexes, carries out various vibration tests and measures the nerve conduction speed. If an injury is determined as the cause in a personal conversation with the patient, there is a suspicion that the nerve damage is permanent.

To confirm the suspicion, the impulse transmission of the nerve is measured. In addition, the sensitivity functions are tested. If the skin sensation has completely disappeared, the suspicion of a tumor or a growth is obvious. In this case, the diagnosis is made by ultrasound examinations. Tissue samples are also taken and evaluated in the laboratory.

If the symptoms only occur in the extremities, there may be a circulatory disorder. The doctor makes the diagnosis after an ultrasound examination and a detailed discussion with the patient. The course of the abnormal sensations depends heavily on the respective cause.

If the paresthesia is triggered by a tumour, the disease can be fatal, while abnormal sensations as a result of circulatory disorders often disappear on their own. If there is permanent nerve damage from an injury, the symptoms will remain, but will not necessarily worsen.


As a rule, abnormal sensations always lead to a sharp reduction in the patient’s quality of life. Those affected are significantly restricted in their everyday life and paralysis or sensory disturbances occur. It is not uncommon for patients to suffer from a typical tingling sensation when they exert or use the affected region.

Due to the sensory disturbances, certain work or everyday activities may no longer be able to be carried out. Dangers may no longer be correctly assessed, which can lead to dangerous situations in everyday life for those affected. Complications usually occur when the abnormal sensations are caused by damage to the nerves and are therefore irreversible.

These can usually no longer be treated and there is no positive course of the disease. Not infrequently, the patients are then dependent on the help of other people in their everyday life and can no longer carry out many everyday activities on their own. A tumor may have a positive course of the disease if it cannot be removed in time. However, the further course of the disease depends heavily on the trigger and the severity of the abnormal sensations, so that a general prediction is usually not possible.

When should you go to the doctor?

Perception disorders on the skin are to be interpreted as a warning from the organism. If they persist, spread over the body or increase in intensity, a doctor should examine and clarify the symptoms. In many cases there are psychological problems that should be treated. At the same time, a physical or organic disorder must be ruled out. Hypersensitivity to touch or contact with heat and cold, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If there are circulatory disorders, irregular heart rhythms or cold extremities, a doctor’s visit is required.

In the case of sleep disorders, general malaise or exhaustion, a doctor is required. If the person concerned suffers from tingling on the skin, numbness or numbness in the legs, a doctor should be consulted. If the skin turns blue, there is a lack of oxygen in the organism. This must be treated as soon as possible so that it does not become a life-threatening condition.

If the person concerned feels pressure pain in the region of the abnormal sensations, a pinched nerve can be the cause. See a doctor before nerve death or other permanent damage occurs. If the body is in the wrong position as a result of the abnormal sensations, a correction is necessary. If left untreated, the affected person is threatened with permanent damage to the skeletal system and an increase in symptoms.

Treatment & Therapy

Once the cause of the discomfort has been determined, appropriate therapy can be initiated. Here, too, it is crucial which disorder or illness triggers the effect. If nerve damage is present, the causes are treated first. The underlying drug or alcohol abuse must therefore be stopped so that the nerves can heal again.

If an injury is the cause, physiotherapeutic treatment is initiated. As part of this therapy, attempts are made to reduce the impairment through gymnastic exercises, massages and other measures. Success depends on the severity of the damage.

In the case of a tumor, the treatment corresponds to cancer therapy. The abnormal sensations have only a low priority in this diagnosis and are rarely treated separately. However, the prescribed medication and successful therapy can eliminate the paresthesia.

If there are circulatory disorders, the treatment is relatively uncomplicated. It is often sufficient to prescribe certain medications to balance the vitamin balance. However, in some cases it is also necessary to place a bypass or to treat the blood fat constriction surgically. The so-called balloon dilatation is also a tried and tested remedy for discomfort.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis depends on the cause of the abnormal sensations (paresthesia). Last but not least, the individual emotional state determines how an illness is dealt with. Mild forms usually run smoothly and disappear again after some time. Treatment is therefore not always indicated. In other cases, therapy can help.

Pinched nerves can usually be successfully treated with physiotherapy. Surgery and physiotherapy are available for herniated discs. In principle, life expectancy is not reduced by such a disease. In other cases, abnormal sensations (paresthesia) are permanent. This is regularly the case after a stroke and in the event of lasting damage to the nerves. Those affected then have no choice but to live with the symptoms. The quality of life suffers. Medication can provide at least temporary relief.

An illness is often the result of other ailments. The patient increases his or her discomfort through the abnormal sensations (paresthesia). An exact diagnosis is sometimes time-consuming. This applies in particular if a connection cannot be clearly established. Some patients even have to see multiple doctors before they get better. This fact causes some unfavorable prospects.


Abnormal sensations have countless causes, which is why there is no special prophylaxis. However, it is possible to recognize the crucial factors and to take effective action against them. A healthy diet is just as useful as regular exercise, frugal alcohol consumption and not smoking. In general, it makes sense to pay attention to your body and to recognize warning signs at an early stage.

People who have sustained a limb injury can avoid paresthesia by consulting a doctor early. He can examine the affected nerve tracts and initiate the appropriate physiotherapy in the event of damage. Finally, discomfort can be prevented through relaxation exercises, regular massages and sufficient fluid intake.


Above all, it makes sense to focus on causal aftercare. This means eliminating the causes that favor paresthesia. So it is advisable to start the withdrawal in case of alcohol abuse. Blood sugar control and medication management should be the priority for diabetics.

For people with a vitamin deficiency, it is advisable to switch to a balanced diet or to replace the deficiency with the help of vitamin supplements. If drugs are the cause of paresthesia, they should either be replaced or, if possible, avoided. The symptomatic follow-up care can always support and supplement the causal care.

Many people who define pain as the main symptom of paresthesia are helped by combined aftercare in the form of pain medication, relaxation and electrical stimulation therapy. Physical measures such as physiotherapy, massages or contrast baths also support positive body perception and well-being on the one hand and increase blood circulation on the other, which has a positive effect on the nerve cells.

Accidents and injuries can also be counteracted with the help of symptomatic aftercare. For example, those affected should avoid hot baths without temperature control and hot water bottles to avoid burns. It is also advisable to make the foot inspection a daily evening ritual, as blisters or frictional ulcerations often go unnoticed with paresthesia. If the condition makes gait unsteady, the living environment can be redesigned to reduce the chance of falling.

You can do that yourself

The options for self-help in the event of abnormal sensations depend on the cause at hand. Healing of nerve damage caused by a pinched nerve in the body can be supported by massage or balancing movements. The connective tissue or tense muscles can be massaged independently using circular movements. In addition, a soothing heat supply is important for support. Posture control and avoiding positions where blood flow is not adequate are helpful.

Sporting activities promote blood circulation and stimulate the circulatory system. Health is also supported with controlled fluid intake and the use of contrast baths. If the discomfort occurs in the fingers and toes, they must be given special protection when the temperature drops. Warm clothing and targeted movements of hands and feet can prevent or eliminate discomfort. The control and optimization of everyday habits create a remedy for problems with the sensations in many cases.

Targeted body awareness training helps to identify and change unhealthy weight loads. They are particularly suitable as preventive measures. In the case of numbness or sensory disturbances on the skin, these regions should be particularly protected from external influences. There is an increased risk of injury, which is often noticed too late.