Paresthesias
That Annoying Numbness and Tingling

Paresthesias are the medical term for tingling and numbness of the nerves, and they are an annoying and even painful complication of diabetes.

But what are they? A good example of a temporary paresthesia is "falling asleep."

That's what you call it when you sit on your foot too long or sleep with your arms stretched above your head.

Compression of nerves by repetitive actions as in carpal tunnel syndrome or by disk problems in the spine can lead to numbness and pain.

Those are paresthesias too, but they are not directly related to diabetes.

Peripheral Neuropathy

The cause of tingling and numbness in diabetics is usually peripheral neuropathy.

This is a diabetic complication rising out of damage to blood vessels and nerves from too much glucose traveling in the blood, or high blood sugar as we diabetics know it.

Since the damage begins in the smallest blood vessels and nerves, paresthesias show up in your toes and fingers as some of the early symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Keep your diabetic feet healthy and happy.

However, it is not always diabetes that does this to you. Other causes might be hypothyroidism, B12 deficiency, arthritis, toxic poisoning, malignancy, infections like Lyme disease and HIV, and strokes.

Since hypothyroidism and B12 deficiency are often found in diabetics, it is good to get those checked. Treating them can improve paresthesias fast.

You might also try getting some vitamin D from sunshine. Low vitamin D causes lots of aches and pains.

You Can Treat Diabetic Paresthesias

You do not have to live with the tingling and numbness caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

When you get your blood sugar under the numbers recommended by your diabetes specialist, the paresthesias will get better too. I am living proof of this.

Other things you can do will help the symptoms, but healthy diet and exercise attack the cause of nerve and blood vessel damage. They are the best ways to get your blood sugar under control.

Use the glycemic index to see which carbohydrates cause high blood sugar so you can reduce them in your diet. Soon you will see dramatic changes.

Exercise increases insulin output, plus it improves circulation. Your feet and legs have less and less neuropathy. Exercise is win-win for type 2 diabetics.

Treating the Symptoms

Meanwhile, try these ideas for the symptoms of tingling and numbness. Over sensitive legs and diabetic nerve pain often respond to massage with creams and oils.

Over the counter capsaicin creams do help reduce the pain. They have no steroids, so there are no harmful side effects.

But capsaicin is made from hot peppers. It can cause a burning sensation between your fingers and around your fingernails.

If you are sensitive to it, wear some cheap throwaway gloves from the store. Also, do not get it around your eyes.

Wash your hands well afterward, and do not expect it to work after one try. It takes a couple of weeks to feel the effects.

But it does help painful, burning feet, it is natural, it is cheap to buy, and side effects are easy to deal with.

Use the antioxidants found in diabetic superfoods. They have been proven in trials to help circulation, insulin resistance and peripheral neuropathy.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen help paresthesias because of their anti-inflammatory effect. Tylenol does not work as well, but it does relieve pain.

Your doctors can prescribe stronger things to give you relief from the burning and tingling that will not let you sleep at night.

Their drugs of choice are usually antidepressants in very low doses (like Elavil), to calm the nerve centers.

At this time there may be hope in stem cell research for regeneration of damaged nerves, but that is still in the future for us.

Do Not Just Live With It

Chronic low levels of nerve pain may lead to depression, and they can keep you from the exercise you need.

Giving in to depression will not help you get to the goals you have set for yourself.

If diabetes is not going to be your life, you must find a way deal with and avoid its complications.

Do not let paresthesias stop you from enjoying the people you love or finishing the things you want to accomplish.


  • "Let us live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry." - Mark Twain

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