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Causes of pins and needles

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Temporary pins and needles occur when pressure is applied to the affected area of the body.

This limits the blood supply to the nerves in that area, which prevents the nerves from sending important signals to the brain.

Chronic pins and needles

Underlying condition

Chronic pins and needles are usually a sign of an underlying condition or disease. These include the following:

  • A central nervous system disorder, including stroke, brain tumour, brain abscess, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, transient ischaemic attack (mini stroke) or transverse myelitis (a disease of the spinal cord).
  • A connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Sjogren's syndrome.
  • A nerve-entrapment syndrome, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or sciatica.
  • A metabolic disease, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism.
  • A cardiovascular disease, such as atherosclerosis.
  • A disease of the blood vessels, such as Raynaud's phenomenon.
  • Neuritis (inflammation of the nerve).
  • Infections such as HIV or Lyme disease.

Other factors

Chronic pins and needles can also be caused by:

  • toxic substances, such as exposure to lead or radiation
  • certain medications, such as chemotherapy, HIV medication or anticonvulsant medications
  • malnutrition (when your body lacks specific nutrients due to a poor diet)
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • cancer
  • direct damage to the nerves by infection or injury
  • alcohol misuse
Medical Review: February 05, 2010

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