You are experience tingling, numbness, weakness or pain and you want to know what’s causing it? This quick guide will explain you how.
Tingling, numbness, weakness and pain are symptoms, not diseases.
A disease is the underlying cause (i.e. multiple sclerosis), a symptom is how the disease presents itself (i.e. numbness in the limbs)
Tingling, numbness, weakness and pain are the most common symptoms in neurology. Why? Neurology is the science of the nerves (neurons). There are different types of Nerves in the human body:
Sensory (or afferent) neurons: send information from sensory receptors to the brain. The receptors have different locations and functions:
1. Eye – Vision
2. Nose – Smell
3. Tongue – Taste
4. Skin, inner organs – Feel, Vibration, Pressure, Pain
Motor (or efferent) neurons: send information from the brain to muscles or glands.
1. Muscles (limbs, heart, blood vessels etc..)
2. Glans (saliva etc..)
The nervous system is controlling all functions of the human body. A nerve damage is resulting in a specific function loss
1. Numbness: damage of a sensory nerve sending sensory information from the skin to the brain
2. Tingling: damage of a sensory nerve sending sensory information from the skin to the brain
3. Pain: damage of a sensory nerve sending sensory information from the skin to the brain
4. Muscle weakness: damage of a motor nerve sending a movement impulse from the brain to the muscles
Ok, tingling, numbness, weakness and pain are the most common symptoms in neurology and they are caused by nerve damages. So far so good. Now it gets a bit more complicated because we want to know where and which exact nerve is damaged. Basically there are 2 different locations possible. The CNS (Central Nervous System – Brain & Spine) and the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System – Nerves of the limbs and inner organs). It’s a bit confusing because:
Both locations can lead to the same symptoms you may experience.
For example blindness. The patient is suffering from vision loss. This can be caused by a damage of the nerve receptors in the eye, the nerve cells leading from the eye to the brain or the nerve cells in the brain itself. Tingling, numbness or pain can be caused by a damage of the nerve receptors in the skin, the nerve cells leading from the skin to the brain or the nerve cells in the brain itself.
Now it gets even more complicated because we want to know the cause of the nerve damage.
The same symptom can be caused by many different diseases.
Numbness can be caused by a squeezed nerve, by neuropathy, by multiple sclerosis or by a brain tumor etc. This shows why it is important to find the exact cause of the nerve damage.
• Multiple sclerosis
• Stroke, Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
• Nerve Damage (Neuropathy) due to Diabetes
• Nerve injury (i.e. neck injury, back injury)
• Herniated disk in your spine
• Pressure on your nerves (could be due to scar tissue, enlarged blood vessels, infection, tumors or Carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on a • nerve at the wrist)
• Sitting or standing in the same position for a long time
• Transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
• Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
• Abnormal electrolyte levels
• A lack of vitamin B12 or other vitamin
The treatment will be completely different depending on the cause.
Summarizing, we know that tingling, numbness, weakness and pain are the most common symptoms in neurology and they are caused by nerve damages. The damages can be in different locations and they may be caused by different underlying diseases.
How does a neurologist find out what is causing my tingling, numbness, weakness and pain?
In the consultation he will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing. Onset, pain level, changes during the day or night time, development, location etc… In the neurological examination he will investigate the symptoms and check if they are on both sides, limited to a dermatome, reflexes etc. Moreover for specific damages there are specific neurological examinations like NCV (nerve conducting velocity), Evoked Potentials, MRI etc. Certain diseases like multiple sclerosis require more extensive investigations.
We hope this article could give you a short and not too medical overview about the diagnostic process in case you are experiencing the most common neurological symptoms tingling, numbness, weakness or pain. In case you have further question, please don’t hesitate to contact us.