Why you mustn’t ignore pins and needles in hands and feet

The nerves in our body play a vital role in transmitting impulses of sensation to our brain, muscles, spinal cord, and organs. The nerve cells, better known as neurons, communicate messages and send instructions to the brain. There are over a billion neurons present in the human body. “But, if any of these neurons get damaged or do not function the way they should, it causes a condition called neuropathy,” said Dr Sanjay Kalra, Director, Bharti Research Institute of Diabetes & Endocrinology (BRIDE), Karnal, India President-Elect, South-Asian Federation of Endocrine Societies

Symptoms of neuropathy come up when one or more nerves are damaged, which results in a “tingling sensation in our hands and feet”. One damaged nerve, a certain nerve type, or even an amalgamation of non-functional nerves can be the reason for neuropathy.

Early symptoms to keep in mind

Neuropathy exhibits a variety of early symptoms that one needs to look out for. Some of them include the feeling of needles pricking in the limbs, numbness, tingling sensations in hands and feet, muscle weakness, and dizziness. “A survey commissioned by P&G Health and conducted by Heal Health and Hansa Research in 2021 suggests that only 50 per cent of their respondents identify these symptoms with nerve health. When asked what they think is the single most important cause for the symptoms, approximately 65 per cent of respondents selected reasons other than problems with their nervous system for witnessing these symptoms,” Dr Kalra shared.

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It is also important to understand that the symptoms and their intensity vary across age, gender, and people with co-morbidities. Studies suggest that females experience symptoms like dizziness, muscle weakness, and a prickling sensation more as compared to their male counterparts. Similarly, while middle-aged people report higher incidences of numbness and dizziness, the older-aged populace experience higher muscle weakness.

Diagnosing neuropathy

Several reasons can lead to nerve impairment – diabetes, consuming alcohol, and exposure to certain toxins and medications. “Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common reasons for neuropathy as high blood sugar can damage nerves, thus making them unable to perform their function. Among other reasons, deficiency in vitamin B12 also leads to higher chances of neuropathy. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study in 2016, that suggests that 54.28% of patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes and take medications for the same are at higher risk of experiencing peripheral neuropathy. The Vitamin B12 level is found to be much higher in patients who do not consume metformin, a medication for diabetes,” he said.

Hence, watching out for symptoms and getting diagnosed at the right time plays a significant role. Feeling sensations like the tingling and numbness of hands and feet regularly can have a disturbing impact on our lives as they can disrupt the flow of our daily activities. So, understanding the message that our neurons try to communicate will help us detect neuropathy at an early stage.

nerves Studies suggest that females experience symptoms like dizziness, muscle weakness, and a prickling sensation more as compared to their male counterparts (Source: Pixabay)

Treating neuropathy at the right time

Neuropathy is curable. Watching out for early symptoms and acting on them swiftly reduces the chances of experiencing neuropathy by a great fraction. Getting the right medical help at the right time can save you the worries of suffering from Neuropathy. While in some cases, medicine and therapy can help, in certain conditions even surgery is required. The survey commissioned by P&G Health also suggests that more than 60% of people ignore the early signs of poor nerve health. This makes it imperative to consult a medical professional once you start experiencing any symptoms listed above, to know your nerve health better.

“Being aware of and looking out for symptoms are the initial steps towards ensuring good nerve health. Often, we consider these symptoms to be quite casual and commit the mistake of not paying attention to them. What may seem quite normal on the outside can affect a large part of us on the inside. The suggestion remains the same – even if you feel the signs are nothing to worry about, visit your doctor and let them confirm the same because prevention is always better than cure,” he concluded.

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