While the possible causes of pins and needles can be an extensive list, there are some more common culprits in seniors.
Peripheral neuropathy happens when the nerves that send messages to and from your brain are damaged. Peripheral neuropathy is common in people over age 55. It’s also common in people with diabetes and people with long-standing B12 deficiencies. 30% of people with peripheral neuropathy have diabetes. It’s important to address the medical causes of peripheral neuropathy early on because neuropathy can cause nerve death, which would make it harder to manage your symptoms of pins and needles.
As you get older, your chances of developing diabetes increase. Diabetes is one of the more common causes of pins and needles because the disease damages the small blood vessels in your fingers and toes. As a result, the nerves in your feet become damaged. Your symptoms can range from complete numbness or pain to the pins and needles sensation that is so uncomfortable.
Medication side effects
As we age, we tend to be on more medications. Some of them can cause fluid buildup or nerve damage. The more common medications that can cause painful pins and needles symptoms are heart and blood pressure medicines, antibiotics, and cancer medications. If you have pins and needles in your legs or feet, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication may be causing it.
Poorly fitting shoes
As we get older, we tend to extend the life of our shoes and wear them out forever. But, as we advance in age, our feet can get smaller or larger. Sometimes our feet get smaller because we lose bone mass. But, we’re more likely to experience swollen feet as our kidneys and heart work harder. Swollen feet can cause our shoes to be tight and put pressure on the nerves of our feet while cutting circulation. Sometimes, getting a pair of shoes that fit better improves pins and needles in our feet.
PAD or Peripheral Artery Disease
PAD is one of the more common reasons you can experience a reduction of blood circulation in your legs and feet. PAD is usually caused by a buildup of plaque or cholesterol in your arteries. As your circulation becomes more affected, your legs and feet may feel cold, and you may experience more pins and needles sensations as well. You might also have other leg pains, and the skin of your legs and feet might change color.
Your kidneys become less efficient as you grow older. Kidney disease is also a by-product of high blood pressure and diabetes. When your kidneys don’t function as well as they should, fluid accumulates in your body, and this causes nerve damage. You’re more likely to have tingling or pins and needles in your legs and feet.
Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D deficiency
It’s not unusual to have deficient vitamin levels of either vitamin as we get older. If our bodies are short on these critical vitamins, we can develop nerve damage and the symptoms of pins and needles pain in our bodies. Ask your physician if he or she has tested your vitamin levels.
A common effect of carrying around extra weight is that your body will naturally put additional pressure on nearby nerves, impacting circulation as well. This can cut off blood supply to the extremities and produce painful symptoms of pins and needles, as well as numbness.
Any new onset of symptoms or worsening of your symptoms warrants a trip to your doctor. If you’re experiencing pins and needles symptoms often, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. This way, you can learn what’s causing your symptoms and try to find relief.
Your doctor may ask:
- Did a specific circumstance bring on your symptoms?
- How long did your pins and needles symptoms last?
- Have you recently started a new medication?
- Do you have diabetes? (Or, your doctor may test you for the condition)
- Do you drink alcohol regularly? (The symptoms happen more often in people who drink regularly)
Your physician will also do a thorough examination, carefully listening to your heart and checking for pulses in your feet and wrists. They’ll also take note of your blood pressure.
Your physician will also test the function of your nervous system while performing a pinprick test in your limbs to check for sensation. Your doctor is likely to do a blood workup to check for conditions that can cause your symptoms, like diabetes or low B12.
If your doctor feels it’s necessary, he or she may also refer you to have other tests, such as a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) or electromyogram (EMG). These two tests evaluate the function of your nerves and muscles.
Seek emergency care if you also lose power on one side of your body or have marked weakness down one side of your body. This is a sign of a possible stroke.