” Doc, this pins and needles thing in my hands and feet is starting to get really annoying. It starts in the morning and persists all day long. I am constantly shaking my hands and wiggling my feet in an effort to get the feeling back. I can’t sleep, I toss and turn all night long. Am I being a baby, or is there actually something wrong with me? Could I have peripheral neuropathy?”
If you’re like many others, you probably grew up being told to “just walk it off,” to just “suck it up” and move on after an injury. That may be why most adults are under the impression that when it comes to pain, the best thing to do is to ignore it and hope that it goes away. While that may have prevented unnecessary trips to the doctor when you were a child, as an adult, it’s usually not the best idea.
There are some pains and other symptoms that should be addressed as quickly as possible, and never ignored, so that you can live the highest quality life possible – that’s especially true when it comes to these symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, which can develop slowly over months, or even years.
Aching, burning or sharp pain in your feet or legs. For example, one patient diagnosed with diabetic peripheral neuropathy noted that symptoms began with pain in one leg, and the sensation of the limb not working properly. That progressed to constant pain in the left foot, and a “pins-and-needles” feeling in the left leg, as well as shooting pain that alternated between the big toe and other toes.
Weakness and loss of balance and coordination. As your motor nerves control voluntary movement of muscles, such as those used for walking, when they’re damaged, you may experience weakness, loss of balance and coordination. It can make something as simple as a walk around the grocery store or buttoning a shirt tough.
A decreased sensation of touch. You may experience the sensation that you’re wearing gloves when you aren’t, or if you accidentally cut yourself, there is little to no pain from the injury.
Extreme sensitivity to touch. Sometimes the opposite is experienced, with a slight touch causing the sensation of pain.
Gradual onset of numbness or that pins-and-needles feeling. This symptom can also result in having difficulty walking or performing other simple tasks as it typically affects the feet or hands, sometimes spreading upward into the legs and arms.
Heat intolerance. Do you find yourself being unable to tolerate the heat? That may be because peripheral neuropathy can cause an inability to sweat, which leads to overheating.
Sleep disturbances. Your sleep can be affected in a number of ways – sometimes the sensation of being hypersensitive to touch, especially in the feet and legs, can make it difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep. When trying to sleep, your perception of pain can increase, also making it difficult to get a good night’s rest.
Dizziness or lightheadedness. These symptoms can occur due to changes in blood pressure.
Loss of bladder control. Nerves that don’t work properly can lead to bladder control issues and incontinence.
Loss of muscle mass in the legs, hands or feet. You may notice your muscles beginning to shrink and your limbs becoming weaker, or not being able to function as they normally would.
Muscle twitching or cramping. Your muscles may twitch at strange times and even cramp, causing pain.
Frequent falls. If you fall frequently, it may be due to a loss of coordination, another peripheral neuropathy symptom