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What is paresthesia?

Paresthesia refers to a burning or prickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but can also occur in other parts of the body. The sensation, which happens without warning, is usually painless and described as tingling or numbness, skin crawling, or itching.

Most people have experienced temporary paresthesia—also known as a feeling of "pins and needles"at some time in their lives when they have sat with their legs crossed for too long or fallen asleep with an arm positioned under their head. It happens when sustained pressure is placed on a nerve. The feeling quickly goes away once the pressure is relieved.

Chronic paresthesia is often a symptom of an underlying neurological disease or traumatic nerve damage. Paresthesia can be caused by disorders affecting the central nervous system, such as:

  • Stroke and transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Encephalitis

A tumor or vascular lesion pressed up against the brain or spinal cord can also cause paresthesia. Nerve entrapment syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can damage peripheral nerves and cause paresthesia accompanied by pain.

Diagnosis is based on your medical history, physical examination, and laboratory as well as determining the underlying condition causing the paresthetic sensations. Your doctor may order additional tests depending on the suspected cause of the paresthesia.

Treatment for paresthesia depends on accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with paresthesia?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about paresthesia. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with paresthesia at

Where can I find more information about paresthesia?

Information may be available from the following resources:



Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.