What is the difference between pins and needles and peripheral neuropathy? Most of us have probably experienced the odd feeling of having our hand, leg or foot “fall asleep” which often includes a feeling of numbness or a sensation of pins and needles. This is a very common condition that can happen to just about anyone and is very temporary. It is usually caused when we have sat or slept in an awkward position for too long.
Typically, this sensation is caused by too much pressure on the blood vessels that lead to the nerves in that part of the body. Usually, by simply moving the part of the body that has “fallen asleep,” the blood begins to flow more regularly and the sensation subsides.
Pins and Needles and Peripheral Neuropathy
However, there is a much more serious condition called peripheral neuropathy that has the same symptoms, but often more intense. There are some stark differences between the “pins and needles” feeling that comes from a blocked blood vessel and peripheral neuropathy.
One major difference is the frequency and intensity of the sensation that is experienced by those with peripheral neuropathy. Unlike a foot that has fallen asleep, the pins and needles or numbing feeling that those with peripheral neuropathy feel can come at anytime, even when they haven’t been sitting or sleeping in an awkward position. They may feel it at any given time no matter what they are doing. The sensation can last for much longer than just a minute or two.
Pins and Needles and Peripheral Neuropathy & Lack of Blood Flow
Similar to the “falling asleep” sensation, peripheral neuropathy is caused when nerves in the extremities, including our hands, feet, arms, and legs are not getting an adequate amount of blood and oxygen. However, the cause of this is much more than just a pinched blood vessel. There has been damage caused to the peripheral nerves. When damaged, these nerves are unable to communicate properly to the brain. They might send signals of numbness or pain to the brain even when there is none.
Those who have peripheral neuropathy have typically had other health issues including the following:
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Bone Marrow Transplants
Diabetes and Peripheral Neuropathy
People who have diabetes are highly likely to develop peripheral neuropathy at some point in their lives.
What makes this condition serious for those who have it is that it can lead to more serious problems. For example, when a person’s foot is numb for long periods of time, they are more likely to injure their foot by stepping on something sharp or bumping into a hard surface. Because their foot is numb, they may have no way of knowing that the injury occurred. If left untreated, the injury could become infected and lead to issues.
Peripheral Neuropathy Treatments
At Arrowhead Health Centers, we work with people who suffer from peripheral neuropathy all of the time. We understand the symptoms and have treatments to help control the pain. If you have noticed the “pins and needles” sensation in your hands or feet on a regular basis, come in for consultation. We can be reached at 623-334-4000, option 9.