If you've got tingly fingers and toes, you may wonder whether they indicate something serious. That prickly sensation can have a variety of causes, from benign to sinister. Once the tingling spreads to your face, it's time to find out what you're dealing with. Consult a medical professional for a full diagnosis.
Tingling is related to your nerves. When a nerve becomes numb and then "wakes back up," an abnormal sensation can occur. It's been described as "pins and needles"—a prickly feeling, not unlike an itch. Tingling generally means that one or more nerves is under pressure, or not getting enough blood. However, the underlying cause can be difficult to determine.
The simplest cause of tingling is lack of movement. When you don't move for a long time, it can put pressure on nerves and blood vessels, resulting in tingling when you move again. Another likely cause is tight clothing, which can restrict blood and cause pressure. Tingling can also result from pressure on your nerves from enlarged blood vessels, tumors, scar tissue or infection, according to MedlinePlus. Cholesterol buildup from atherosclerosis in the legs can make your feet tingle when you walk. Additional causes of tingling include carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, migraine, multiple sclerosis, seizures, underactive thyroid and vitamin deficiency.
Tingling is often accompanied by numbness. The medical term for numbness and tingling is "parasthesia." Parasthesia is significant, but not life-threatening. Additional, more serious symptoms include weakness or paralysis, loss of muscle control, pain, confusion, slurred speech, dizziness, and rash. When symptoms such as these accompany tingling, they can indicate a serious medical condition. If you have any of these additional symptoms, call your doctor or go to a hospital immediately.
While tingling is not life-threatening, it can result in nerve damage over time. This is known as peripheral neuropathy, and it is difficult to cure. Peripheral neuropathy can be inherited or acquired through injury or illness. If you have just started experiencing tingling, it may be treatable; however, the longer it goes untreated, the more difficult it can be to cure. If your tingling has spread from your hands and feet to your face, or if it's been happening for a long time and is getting worse, see a medical professional.
If you have tingling in your hands, feet and face, first determine whether your clothing is too tight, particularly at the cuffs and neck. Move and stretch to restore circulation. If tingling continues, contact your doctor immediately for a consultation. Your doctor may conduct a physical examination and take your medical history, focusing on your nervous system—specifically asking about any other abnormal sensations, how long you've felt tingling and whether anything makes it worse. Blood tests, X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI may be used to diagnose the source of your tingling.