Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do my arms and legs tingle ("fall asleep") at random times?"
I am a 27 year old mother of two children under two years old, with no serious medical history, aside from a suspected case of Von Willebran's type 1. I smoke about a pack of cigarettes a day. For the past five or so years, at times I can be resting, laying down, or in some other comfortable position, then my arms, or legs will start to tingle or fall asleep. Is this a circulation or a pinched nerve issue? I am not currently taking any medication.
You are describing one of the body's best defense mechanisms: nerves! Whenever any part of your body is at risk of damage (either a real threat or a perceived one), nerves will let you know so that you can adjust or change something to avoid the injury. In this case, low blood flow to part of your body (the part that is being occluded, usually by your position) causes a buildup of normal waste products from the cells in the affected limb, as well as less oxygen. The lower level of oxygen makes it hard for the cells in that part of your body to make the energy they need to stay alive. It also causes the nerves to fire and send the strange sensation to your brain that you need to pay attention and do something. A simple change in position is usually enough to get blood moving again, and remove the sensation. If you are having more tingling or "falling asleep" than you should be having, please speak with your doctor to make sure that nothing more serious is occurring. Finally, it is VERY important that you not smoke in the house with young children, as this can cause an increased rate of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and many other illnesses. For your own health and especially that of your children, please stop smoking.
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