About 2.4% of women and men suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is a condition that affects the nerves that lie outside of the central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord). For people with diabetes, that number is much higher, with some data estimating nearly half will have neuropathy symptoms at some point as their diabetes progresses.
Peripheral neuropathy has lots of potential causes and can cause a wide array of symptoms, including tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations. Learning to recognize these and other symptoms — and also differentiating them from other, temporary causes — are keys to getting treatment as soon as possible.
David Berkower, DO, of Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation in Pembroke Pines, Florida, is skilled in identifying peripheral neuropathy and treating its symptoms. Here, learn why peripheral neuropathy happens and when tingling needs to be medically evaluated.
Quick facts about neuropathy
You basically have two sets of nerves: your central nervous system and your peripheral nervous system. The nerves in your central nervous system reside in your brain and spinal cord. The nerves in your peripheral nervous system are those that begin just outside of your central nervous system and extend to the rest of your body.
Your peripheral nerves enable every part of your body to communicate with your brain and spinal cord. The nerves in this network help control movement, manage functions like digestion, and allow you to feel objects and temperatures.
Peripheral neuropathy happens when nerves in this system get damaged or compressed, typically from causes like traumatic injuries, infections, inherited nerve problems, or exposure to toxins, including some medications. Underlying medical problems, such as diabetes, are also potential causes.
Tingling is one of the early warning signs of peripheral neuropathy, often affecting the feet and hands first. Over time, tingling or numbness can spread to the legs and arms. Other symptoms can include:
- Burning sensations
- Numbness or loss of sensation
- Sharp, jabbing pain
- Electricity-like shocks
- Extreme sensitivity to pressure or touch
- Balance or coordination problems
- Muscle weakness
Sometimes, nerve sensitivity can be so severe that even the weight of a bed sheet can cause too much discomfort to fall asleep.
When tingling needs to be evaluated
Everyone has experienced the tingling sensations that occur when a foot or hand “falls asleep.” This type of tingling is temporary and goes away when we change positions.
But tingling can also be a sign of neuropathy. In general, you should seek medical care if tingling is recurrent or persistent or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as the ones listed above. You should also schedule a neuropathy evaluation if:
- Your symptoms get worse
- Tingling affects both sides of your body
- Tingling began after beginning a new medication
- You have or have had a recent infection
- You’ve been exposed to toxins
- You have diabetes or an autoimmune disease
- You’ve been in an accident or had surgery
Even though tingling may be very mild at first, without treatment, neuropathy can get worse over time and result in permanent nerve damage and disability.
Dr. Berkower treats neuropathy using medical therapies and lifestyle interventions tailored to each person’s unique needs. Treatment begins with a comprehensive physical exam, often accompanied by lab work or nerve studies to pinpoint the source of the symptoms.
Don’t ignore tingling symptoms
Peripheral neuropathy often responds best to early treatment. If you have tingling or other signs of neuropathy, an evaluation is the first step toward relieving symptoms and preventing serious complications.
To learn more about peripheral neuropathy and its treatment, call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.