4 reasons for tingling or numbness in the arms and legs

Temporary pins and needles sensations or numbness are common when you’ve held the same position too long: this can put pressure on a nerve or compromise blood flow to the nerve. However, some conditions can cause these same symptoms to be persistent, even constant. Here are four of the most common reasons for such ­longer-lasting symptoms.

1. Peripheral neuropathy

This condition involves damage to nerve fibers that run throughout the body. Most often, the symptoms start gradually, first in the limbs, particularly the toes. The symptoms include a reduced ability to sense something touching the skin, tingling, burning, or itching, as well as weakness, twitching, or shrinkage of the muscles.

“Most neuropathies affect both sides of the body similarly,” points out Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, a neurologist who specializes in neuropathy at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “People typically notice the symptoms more when they are resting. Many also develop other symptoms, including dizziness or rapid heart rate on standing, and gastrointestinal symptoms.”

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Identifying an individual’s cause of neuropathy is the key to finding effective treatment. Type 2 diabetes is the most common cause worldwide, but autoimmune conditions, medications such as chemotherapy or megavitamins, or exposure to heavy metals or pesticides trigger many cases.

2. Sciatica

The sciatic nerves originate from spinal nerve roots in the pelvis and run into each leg. Pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness caused by compression of these nerve roots is called sciatica. It most often affects middle-aged or older people who have arthritis of the spine and a bulging or ruptured disc. Sciatica often comes on suddenly along with low back pain and spasms. It may linger for a few weeks or months while the body heals the disc. If sciatica causes weakness in your leg, tell your doctor immediately: you may need surgery right away to prevent permanent leg weakness.

3. Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the central spinal canal — the channel inside the vertebrae that contains the spinal cord and nerve roots. This canal can be narrowed by arthritis, bulging or herniated discs, or thickened ligaments. The narrowed canal often irritates the nerves and can cause limb tingling or numbness as well as low back pain that is worse when you stand up straight or walk.

4. Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is atherosclerosis that causes narrowing of the arteries of the legs or, rarely, the arms. This can cause painful cramps, typically in the calf, during activity (since the muscles don’t get enough blood and oxygen) that disappear with rest. “It’s similar to pain in the chest with exercise caused by narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and it requires urgent medical evaluation,” Dr. Oaklander explains. She notes that PAD can also cause tingling in the legs or arms, if nerves don’t get enough oxygen to function well.

Get it checked out

For some people, leg numbness or tingling from neuropathy may be mild and might not interfere with daily activities. Others develop chronic pain or itchiness that makes it hard to sleep, work, exercise, and even socialize. In some cases, leg numbness can sound alarm bells for a life-threatening condition (see “Limb symptoms and stroke”).

In any event, note carefully when, where, and under what conditions numbness or tingling occurs, and report it to your doctor right away. “Anything that affects the nervous system is serious,” Dr. Oaklander says. “Even mild symptoms can be a warning sign of future irreversible damage if not corrected first.”

Limb symptoms and strokeRarely, unfamiliar strange sensations or weakness of the legs and arms that comes on suddenly can be a sign of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke — an emergency involving insufficient blood flow to part of the brain or — in rare cases — the spinal cord. Typically, TIA and stroke symptoms affect only one side of the body. The symptoms include new, sudden weakness on one side of the body; trouble walking, seeing, speaking, or understanding others; severe dizziness or imbalance; or severe headache. Unless a blood clot or other treatable cause is diagnosed and corrected within a few hours, the affected nerve cells die, leaving disabilities that are often permanent. Such symptoms require an immediate call to 911 or an emergency department visit.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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