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Causes of Numbness in the Head

Causes of Numbness in the Head

Trigeminal neuralgia, hypokalemia, shingles, epilepsy, etc., are some of the contributing factors for numbness in the face or head. This Buzzle write-up provides some information on the causes of numbness or tingling in the head.
Kalpana Kumari
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
The term 'paresthesia' refers to the abnormal sensations such as numbness, tingling, or pins-and-needles sensation. More often than not, such sensations are felt in the limbs or the extremities. However, these could also be felt at the back of the head or face.

Since paresthesia could sometimes be a symptom of a serious medical condition, it's advisable to seek medical assistance, especially if these sensations are experienced every now and then.

Contributing Factors

The following conditions could be the reasons behind numbness in the head:

The term 'obdormition' refers to the sensation of numbness that occurs due to the constant pressure on the nerves. Irritation of the cervical (C1-C4) nerves could be the reason behind numbness or tingling sensation in the head.

Occipital Neuralgia
The occipital nerves, which are responsible for the sensation in the back or top of the head, run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck to the posterior scalp. If these nerves get compressed, it could give rise to symptoms such as pain and numbness on one or both sides of the head, increased sensitivity to light, tender scalp, pain behind the eye, etc.

Herpes zoster, which is also called shingles, is a condition that occurs when varicella-zoster virus (virus that causes chickenpox) gets reactivated. It only affects those who have been affected by chickenpox earlier. Once the virus first enters the body, it causes chickenpox. Thereafter, it lies dormant in the nerve roots around the spinal cord. It can get reactivated in case of individuals who have a weak immune system, or those who have been under stress. Thereafter, the virus travels along the nerve to cause numbness or tingling, rashes or painful blisters that dry and crust over in 3-4 weeks.

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria enters the body through a tick bite. Lyme disease involves the appearance of red rash that appears 6-7 days after being bitten by the tick. The skin rash is mostly circular in shape, and disappears in a couple of weeks. If left untreated, the infection might begin to spread to other parts of the body, thereby causing numbness or pain in the nerve area, paralysis or weakness in the muscles of the face, or heart problems. In the absence of treatment, months or years after the infection, symptoms such as muscle pain and weakness, migratory joint pain, abnormal muscle movement, joint swelling, numbness and tingling, speech problems, paralysis of the facial muscles, and heart problems, or cognitive problems might be experienced.

Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. It occurs due to the loss of myelin sheath that protects the nerves. As a result, the communication between the brain and other parts of the body is adversely affected. This could give rise to symptoms such as paresthesia (numbness, prickling, or pins and needles sensation), vision-related problems, muscle weakness, poor coordination and balance, cognitive problems, or memory-related problems.

Besides the aforementioned conditions, trauma to the head, entrapment of a facial or spinal nerve, meningitis, epilepsy, tumors, abnormal potassium levels in blood, head injury, etc., could cause paresthesia.

The treatment can be determined once the underlying cause of head numbness has been determined. For instance, numbness caused by shingles can be alleviated with the help of antiviral drugs. In case of neuralgia, pressure on the nerve due to blood vessels, bones, ligaments, or tumors, could be treated with the help of a surgery. Since paresthesia is mostly related to neurological conditions, certain neurological tests might be conducted. These include electromyography, nerve conduction studies, nerve biopsy, etc. Also, blood tests might also be conducted. In some cases, medical assistance must be sought at the earliest, as nerve damage could occur in the absence of treatment.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.