What is Paraesthesia?

What is Paraesthesia?
This is probably one of the most common sensory symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Simply put, Paraesthesia is the sensation of tingling, prickling, buzzing, itching, numbness or the sensation more commonly described as “pins and needles” upon your skin.

It is very similar to how it feels when a limb “falls asleep” only instead of the sensation going away after you stop laying on that limb in an odd position, it just stays around without any apparent reason and without easing up. This can be caused by some sort of nerve interruption (such as a lesion) in the central nervous system (CNS).

How to Treat Paraesthesia
Unfortunately there is no treatment for Paraesthesia in particular, it’s one of those MS symptoms that either goes away on it’s own or sticks around as long as you are having a flare up. Steroids or Acthar may help the flare up pass on and ultimately end your paraesthesia but of course there is no guarantee… I have also never found any kind of home remedy to help relieve this symptom, you just have to “suffer through it” and I understand that that is horrible advice because it can be physically painful and emotionally torturous at times. But again, I have yet to find any sort of solution to this symptom.
My Experience

The pins and needles were one thing but the itching was unbearable! I usually had it on my scalp and I wanted to scratch my skin off! Nothing helped, not antihistamines (like Benadryl), not a cold shower, not even scratching, I just had to deal with it and worse than the physical sensation itself was the emotional frustration of having nothing to do about it: I was helpless.

When the itching is elsewhere it’s like this; imagine putting a sweater made of pure wool on with no under shirt. It’s itchy all over and there is nothing you can do to stop the itching but take the sweater off but guess what? You can’t take you skin off! After a while you may get used to it, not in a “I don’t notice it anymore” kind of way, but more in a “I am just too tired to care” kind of way. “I give up”.

Pins and Needles

I can remember experiencing the pins and needles sensation during small flare ups or when it got too hot. It would start in my finger tips and sometimes work it’s way up to my elbows. This sometimes made simple tasks difficult because it was almost like my hands were numb so I couldn’t properly feel what I was doing. Another frustrating form of pins and needles is when I get it just on the tip of my nose. Not part of my face, not most of my nose, just the very tip so it felt like someone was tickling my nose with a feather; it felt like something landed on my nose but no matter how hard I tried to wipe “what ever must be on my nose” off, the sensation would not go away. Even after I realize that nothing is there it is very hard to not keep wiping at it! I still get this from time to time and I hate it, it’s so annoying!

This is the same as pins and needles as far as what causes it; chance. Sometimes I would have a small flare up and get the pins and needles and other times it was numbness. Very similar to pins and needles I could not always feel what I was doing with my hands (for example). The only difference is it feels more like I could slice my hand open with a knife and feel nothing. There were (and still are) many times where I looked down at my arm and realized I am bleeding without knowing what I did to cut myself. Some people get it really bad in their feet and will step on things like tacks or glass and not realize it until they notice footprint shaped blood spots around the house. I have sort of had this happen but usually I can feel it happen for a split second but in a very dull manor. It hurts but then the pain goes away like “Ouch, what was that? Oh, I just stepped on a nail and it went all the way through my foot” (that never happened haha just an example).

3 thoughts on “What is Paraesthesia?

  • April 21, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    These are some great descriptions, Matt. I've experienced the OUTRAGEOUS level of itching that you're describing, and I asked my neurologist about whether it could be an MS symptom, and he didn't think so. I actually DO think the itching is caused by MS; some sources do indicate itching as an MS symptom. I think my itching may be made worse by some sort of histamine feedback loop, because for me, antihistamines seem to lessen the itching. But I'm quite sure the initial cause is just random, out of nowhere (MS!).

    Definition-wise, most sources I've looked at don't include itching as part of 'paresthesia' per se, although a few do.

    • April 25, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Well MANY things can causes itching, itching from MS is just neurological, so if it's just itching I would say MS should be last on your list of possible suspects

  • June 17, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Matt just read it there as my symptons are made at minute. Doing exercise at minute to try and helput me walk. I have drop foot it’s got worse over the last while. Loozing for exercise for ankle it’s totally spastic . Any words of advise matt . Thanks a mill


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