If you ever get a weird tingling, crawling, numbness, or itching in your extremities – hands, feet, arms, legs – it might just be menopause.

We all know the pins-and-needles feeling of realizing you’ve been in one position too long and your foot fell asleep, or of toes warming up after an afternoon of sledding. But when the tingling or burning happens for none of the usual reasons, it can be a little alarming.

Fear not. It’s called paresthesia, it’s not uncommon, and it usually stops when estrogen levels stabilize. Knowing that doesn’t make it any less annoying, so we’re going to talk about what it is and how to get rid of it for our Symptom of the Month.

What causes the tingling in my hands?

Menopause and nerves have a complicated relationship. Surprise – declining estrogen levels may be the culprit. Because estrogen levels impact our central nervous system, when those levels start to fluctuate, some of the nerves are impacted.

The sensations can take a lot of forms: tingling, burning, crawling skin, cold, numbness, the classic pins-and-needles, and increased sensitivity. Women report symptoms from intermittent and mild to lasting and painful, even to the point of waking them from sleep.

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What about in the face? Is that paresthesia as well?

This is most likely due to essentially the same cause, but with a different outcome. Most women report menopausal paresthesia of the hands, but it's not uncommon to experience the same effects in the face. It can be particularly unpleasant, and can cause serious questions about your overall state. If your facial paresthesia is caused by the same declining estrogen levels, then the same treatments and remedies can theoretically be just as effective, which we'll get to shortly.

Is the tingling sensation dangerous?*

Paresthesia due to hormone fluctuation isn’t dangerous on its own, although numbness in the feet can cause women to lose their balance and fall when walking or running. Some women report the numbness or other sensation can make it temporarily difficult to grip or do fine finger movements. When suffering a bout of paresthesia, it’s important to pay attention to how your body may be affected and adapt to any reduced ability. This can also lead to increased menopausal anxiety, so it's important to pay close attention without stressing over it too much, or you'll be doing more harm than good.

What can I do about the pricking in my thumbs?

As usual, there are lifestyle changes to try first:

  1. Eat right. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies helps regulate the body and may help moderate symptoms.
  2. Regular exercise improves blood flow and reduces tension, both of which can help relieve paresthesia. Stretch. Move.
  3. Get acupuncture and/or massage. Again, improving circulation can really help with paresthesia symptoms.
  4. Sleep, hydrate, cut back on alcohol and caffeine. You know all these already, and should be doing them for all your menopause symptoms. Give your central nervous system all the support it needs to do its job well.
  5. If you smoke, quit. Smoking is hard on the circulation, restricting blood flow.
  6. Add supplements. B12 deficiency is a particular cause of paresthesia, and adding iron, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, and E might help. If you suspect you may be low on B12, that’s a good time to see a health care professional.

If none of these make the paresthesia manageable, talk to a doctor about medical interventions like hormone replacement, topical creams, or a low-dose antidepressant medication.

When should I consult a doctor?*

Tingling and burning sensations can be caused by more dangerous conditions such as fibromyalgia or stroke, so if you have any of the following as well as the paresthesia, talk to your doc:

  • Difficulty controlling arms, legs, hands, or feet; problems walking
  • Increased urination or inability to control bladder or bowels
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Changes in vision or speech, slurring
  • Fainting or black outs
  • If the tingling is present in more than just an extremity, especially if it’s present in half of your body.

While paresthesia related to menopause is considered “chronic” (long lasting or recurring), there are ways to moderate the sensations until estrogen levels reach their new normal and sensations reduce or disappear. If paresthesia is interrupting your sleep or impacting your quality of life, talk to a doctor or trusted health care professional for ways to find relief.

*As always, the information contained in this blog is not intended to replace expert advice from a medical professional. If you think your paresthesia may be related to causes other than menopause, please seek help.

Do you have tingling extremities of the unpleasant kind? Have you found relief? Please share! Fill us in on the details in the comments below. You’re also welcome to join the conversation on genneve’s Facebook page or Midlife & Menopause Solutions, genneve’s closed Facebook group.

Experiencing other odd symptoms like cold flashes, sore breasts, or ringing ears? Be sure to check in with our Symptom of the Month series for answers!

Shannon Perry

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