Florida Pain Medicine is a rotation site and teaching facility for USF Health ACGME Pain Medicine Fellowship and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency.

Tingling Limbs: What You Need to Know About Neuropathy

Neuropathy affects an estimated 30 million Americans, which is about 9% of the population. One of the earliest signs is tingling in your limbs, but it isn’t long before tingling is joined by pain. 

Many of our patients at Florida Pain Medicine don’t come in for treatment until they start to feel the pain. But we can diagnose the cause of your neuropathy and create a customized treatment plan that diminishes your symptoms and helps prevent your neuropathy from progressing to cause complications.  

Top causes of neuropathy

Neuropathy generally refers to any problem that affects your nerves. Most of the time, people use neuropathy to mean a specific type of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. Your peripheral nerves are all the nerves in your body, outside the brain and spinal column.  

Medications, toxins, pinched nerves, and numerous health conditions, including blood vessel disease, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, and autoimmune diseases can cause peripheral neuropathy. You can also develop nerve damage as a result of a vitamin B12 deficiency or abusing alcohol.

Of all the possible causes, however, high blood sugar because of uncontrolled diabetes is at the top of the list. Diabetes is responsible for 60% of all cases of peripheral neuropathy.

Types of peripheral neuropathy

You have more than 100 billion nerve cells in your peripheral nervous system. These nerves form a vast network that keeps your brain informed of everything that happens in your body and allows your brain to send instructions to every organ and tissue.

Considering the size of the peripheral nervous system, it’s no surprise that there are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. To make things more complex, each type of neuropathy is identified by its own unique set of symptoms.

However, all the peripheral nerves belong in one of these categories:

Motor nerves

Motor nerves transmit messages from the brain to your muscles, allowing you to control skeletal muscle movement. As you’d expect, damaged motor nerves cause symptoms such as painful cramps and muscle weakness and wasting.

Autonomic nerves

The autonomic nerves control vital body functions such as your heart rate, digestion, and breathing. Though you may experience a broad range of symptoms from autonomic nerve damage, two of the most common are excessive sweating and heat intolerance.

Sensory nerves

Sensory nerves carry information from your body to your brain. After your brain interprets their nerve signals, you feel the sensation, whether it’s pain, heat, cold, pressure, or another sensation.

Tingling limbs are signs of neuropathy

Tingling, electric-shock sensations, and pain are classic signs of damaged sensory nerves, a type of neuropathy that typically affects your limbs. Depending on the cause of your neuropathy, you may experience a tingling sensation that radiates down your arms and legs. In some cases, neuropathy symptoms may only affect your feet, while others affect your hands.

These are a few examples:

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome arises from a pinched nerve in your wrist and causes tingling and weakness in your hand and fingers.

Sciatica

Sciatica begins with a pinched nerve in your lower back that causes pain and tingling that shoots down one leg.

Diabetic neuropathy

When blood sugar levels are too high, the excess sugar damages tiny, peripheral nerves, most often in your feet. In this case, the tingling or prickling feeling that begins in your feet may spread up into your legs.

Common complications of neuropathy

Tingling and pain can be extremely uncomfortable, but there’s another symptom caused by neuropathy that’s dangerous: numbness. When you develop numbness, you’re at risk of complications because you can’t feel things like a change in temperature or pain from a cut on your foot. The loss of sensation quickly leads to wounds that become infected and foot ulcers that are notoriously hard to heal.

At the first sign of tingling, pain, or numbness, call Florida Pain Medicine so we can start early treatment that relieves your symptoms and helps prevent complications.

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