If you experience tingling in the left arm, it could be a benign or temporary sensation, or it could be a harbinger of something more serious. You no doubt have experienced these sensations in one of your limbs or extremities at one time or another and it has usually been due to a temporary interruption of the blood supply to the area. This sensation has a name: it’s called paresthesia.
When your arm has either gone numb or has a “pins and needles” feeling, it’s usually because you’ve been lying on it. In this case, there is nothing to be alarmed about because you know the cause and you know the sensation will only last a short time. An actual tingling sensation may sometimes be different than the more familiar pins and needles sensation, and is often closer to a feeling of numbness or weakness.
If incidents of paresthesia become chronic, or if a single incident lasts for a significant amount of time, it may be an indication that something somewhere is not as it should be. In the majority of cases, paresthesia is caused by a problem with the nervous system. A pinched nerve can cause numbness, tingling, or pain and, in many cases, some combination of these three sensations. A pinched nerve is normally treatable, often without any need for surgical intervention.
Peripheral Neuropathy or Nerve Damage
The sensation you’re feeling could, on the other hand, be a result of nerve damage or a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. There are many varieties of peripheral neuropathy, most of which require treatment. If they are not treated, the condition tends to get worse and can eventually become debilitating. Nerve damage does not have to occur in the limb itself. If the nerve is located in the neck, shoulder or spine, the sensation will often be felt in one arm or the other. Sometimes a systemic disease such as diabetes is the cause of peripheral neuropathy. In any event, prompt treatment is best, since nerve issues can bring on lifelong problems if allowed to run their course.
Heart Attack or Heart Attack Warning
There’s no denying that an incident of paresthesia can be (to coin a pun) “unnerving.” This is often the case when the condition happens “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason. If it is happening on your left side, the first thought that may come to mind is that you are having or are about to have a heart attack. If this was the case, you would be more apt to feel pain than any kind of tingling, although this cannot be ruled out. You would also likely feel pain in your shoulder and/or your chest, which will not generally be the case when it is only nerves involved. A heart attack is most often caused by what is called ischemic heart disease. This is where vascular abnormalities such as arterial blockages or issues with the muscles of the heart cause a deficiency in the blood supply to the heart. Symptoms of this deficiency can sometimes be detected in the limbs or extremities even without a heart attack actually happening.
A Sign of a Stroke
Another possibility that cannot be ignored is that of a stroke. When you have a stroke, only one side of your body is typically affected since a stroke results from a blood clot in the brain and only one side of the brain is normally affected. A stroke will generally bring with it other symptoms besides paresthesia, but any numbness or weakness you feel could still be a warning sign. If there is ever the slightest indication you may be having or have had a stroke, it’s imperative to seek medical assistance immediately. As is the case with a heart attack, every second counts.
Other Possible Causes
You do not necessarily have to have sustained nerve damage to bring about an incidence of paresthesia. Like other parts of your body, nerves have to be maintained in order to function as they should. Maintenance in this case equates to proper nutrition. It is a fact that a deficiency in vitamin B12 can sometimes cause numbness or strange sensations in your limbs, hands, or feet. Deficiencies in other vitamins or minerals can cause issues with your nervous system as well, but ensuring your intake of vitamin B12 is adequate is extremely important.
Sometimes paresthesia is caused by a bump or a fall, and you may not feel the sensation associated with it until sometime later, perhaps much later. In a case like this, you may not have any recollection of the event unless the trauma was of a particularly serious or painful nature. Therefore, if your left arm starts to tingle, you may want to think back a few hours or even days and try to remember if something happened that could have caused the condition.
What to Watch For
Tingling in the left arm by itself may or may not be anything serious. As was stated earlier, a one time, temporary incident would not be a cause for concern, especially if you have reason to believe the sensation is due to pressure having been placed on a nerve or a temporary disruption in blood circulation to the affected area. What you do want to be watchful for are accompanying symptoms which often are indicative of a more serious issue. Even if damage to a nerve or a muscle is slight, it can often pay to have the problem looked into and treated before things get worse and you end up with a permanent condition.
These strange and unwelcome sensations in you left arm are generally treatable, which is to say the underlying cause is usually treatable. These sensations may well be avoidable if certain lifestyle changes are undertaken, often on the advice of a physician. Some of these lifestyle changes can be drastic and involve eating habits, a cessation of certain physical activities, or a need to take on new activities. On the other hand, preventing these symptoms might involve nothing more than sleeping with an extra pillow so you don’t roll over on your left arm.