Tingling or numbness in any part of the body indicates nerve injury. Nerve receptors receive and send signals to the brain and only due to this communication one can feel painful sensation. Trigeminal nerve is responsible for any kind of sensation on the eyes, teeth, jawbone and back of your head. It also controls certain functions like chewing and biting. Trigeminal is the largest of the cranial nerves and is composed of ophthalmic nerve, maxillary nerve and the mandibular nerve. The first and second nerves are sensory in nature and the maxillary nerve can do both motor and sensory function. The first three set of cranial nerves C1 to C3 is responsible for any sensitivity on the back of the head and superficial cervical nerves C1 to C4 holds the function of neck and ear region.
Any damage, injury or compression on the nerves can cause numbness. Any single nerve or group of nerves is injured/damaged causing numbness. Sometimes prolonged diabetes can damage the nerve fibers (the one belonging to feet) causing numbness. Irritation of trigeminal nerve or some portion of the brain that holds the sensitivity of the face and head region can cause temporary numbness.
The symptoms of tingling feeling are different for every person. Some people describe it as “pins and needles” and some others report it as tingling feeling in the head. Different parts of the head are affected while having tingling feeling. In some cases front portion of the head and in others back of the head would be tingling or feeling numb. It feels like your head is tingling or your brain has strange feeling. Some people describe it as “electric signals” are running in the head and it feels like head is burning or prickling inside. Numbness can be felt gradually in many parts of the body like face, ears, nose, tongue, neck and mouth. For many people tingling feeling is preceded or followed by numbness. Numbness/tingling feeling can occur frequently or in rare occasions and it may range from mild to severe. This kind of feeling may vary between day and night and becomes worse when the person is under stress or anxiety.
Causes Of Tingling In The Face and Back Of The Head :
Many factors can cause numbness of head and face. It can be grouped broadly under 3 categories namely neurological disorders, circulatory disorders and psychological problems.
- Problems Of Neurology That Causes Numbness
- Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease in which the immune system of the body attacks and destroys the outer protective layer of the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Around 2.5 million people are living with MS the symptoms of which include vision problems, thinking and memory problems. Multiple sclerosis can cause numbness in the face and head.
Epilepsy is a kind of neurological problem affecting the brain causing sudden seizures due to increased electrical activity. Epilepsy can cause temporary numbness in the tongue and back of the head.
Shingles is an infectious disorder caused by Herpes Zoster virus which affects the nerve endings of trigeminal nerves after the infection. Shingles can cause tingling and numb feeling on one side of the body along with other symptoms like fever, blurred vision, headache and change in taste. Other infectious diseases like Lyme disease and post herpetic neuralgia can also cause tingling and numbness sensation on the back of your head.
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
It is a kind of neurological disorder that causes severe pain on the face suddenly. It creates sudden shock like pain on the face, which lasts for few seconds. The pain can occur anytime when the person is involved in brushing his teeth, shaving his face or just laughing or talking to someone. Trigeminal neuralgia can cause tingling sensation on the face and the symptoms are severe when it appears. Trigeminal neurophatic pain can occur due to dental procedure or chronic diseases like diabetes causing dull burning pain on the face before numbness or tingling sensation. Nerves belonging to trigeminal area get compressed causing such symptom.
- Anesthesia Dorosa
Anesthesia is injected to the patient suffering from trigeminal neuralgia and it can cause complications like facial numbness and loss of feeling on the back of the head. It can also cause throbbing pain now and then on the face.
- Guillain Barre Syndrome
This is a rare kind of immunity disorder that attacks the peripheral nerves of the person who had been to food poisoning earlier. The signs of this disorder may occur few hours or even up to 2 months after the episode of poisoning. Some of the symptoms of GB syndrome include tingling sensation and numbness starting from feet till the head, difficulty in controlling bowel, reduced heartbeat, difficulty in eye movements and speaking and shortness of breath.
- Psychological Problems
Many kinds of psychotic problems can cause tingling and numbness on the back of your head. Disorders like anxiety attacks, bipolar disorder and manic episodes can cause symptoms like racing pulse, trembling, feeling of fear, shortness of breath, hot flashes, feeling of tightness, tingling sensation in several parts of the body like face, lips, tongue, arms and legs.
- Being Anxious
When a person becomes worried or anxious the body triggers stress response discharging many hormones into the blood. This can cause various psychological and physiological changes and in this process the metabolism would reduce blood supply to certain vital organs like brain and spine resulting in tingling feeling and numbness. It takes sufficient time for the body system to recover from the induced stress feeling and emotional changes and this can keep the body in hyperstimulated state pouring in more of hormones and enzymes. This in turn can affect the nervous system and nerve cells begin to send/receive erratic impulses resulting in tingling feeling. You may experience some bizarre feelings and sensations on such occasions.
- Food Poisoning
Food allergy and eating poisonous foods can cause tingling feeling on the tongue, lips, face and itching of skin. Fish poisoning like eating ciguatera fish or shellfish can also cause similar symptoms.
- Circulatory Problems
Interrupted oxygenated blood supply to the major artery of the brain can cause serious complications like stroke and ischemic attack. Part of the brain gets damaged due to sudden blockage of blood caused by thrombosis or atherosclerosis or aneurysm. Transient ischemic attack or mini stroke may occur if the blood supply to the brain is stopped abruptly causing symptoms like confusion of thought, reduced alertness, slurred speech, dizziness and trouble in walking. Very often the symptoms improve within few hours when the blood supply is restored.
Sometimes blood supply to the cerebellum or brainstem can get disrupted or blocked in the arteries leading to vertebrobasilar circulatory problems. This can cause symptoms of partial or complete loss of vision, tunnel vision, vertigo, numbness or sudden tingling sensation of the head. When blood supply to the heart suddenly gets blocked it can cause symptoms like tightness in the chest, sharp pain below the breast bone, and a feeling of numbness in the jaw, left shoulder and arm. This condition is known as angina pectoris and the symptom lasts for few minutes to an hour. Numbness in the back of the head can be caused due to blocked blood supply to the nerve fibers due to inflammation of arteries. Conditions like vasculitis, polyarteritis nodosa, granulomatosis and thoracic outlet syndrome can cause numbness.
Sudden head injury can affect the nerve fibers causing sudden numb feeling on the face and back of the head. A sharp blow on the head or face or cuts/punctures on the head can compress the nerve causing such symptoms. Spinal cord injury in the C4 nerve can also cause numbness on the face and head and even on many other parts. Spinal problems like spondylitis, bulging disc, osteoporosis and degenerative disc disorder can cause sudden tingling or numb feeling on the face and head.
Brain Tumor can certain compress the nerve endings affecting the face and head. Abscess occurring in the ears, nose or sinus or parotid glands or spinal cord can cause numbness on the face and back of the head. Increased secretion of serotonin can cause tingling sensation in many parts.
- Metabolic Diseases
Some of the metabolic disorders like hypocalcemia (high levels of calcium) in blood, hypokalemia (excess of potassium), and certain vitamin deficiency like thiamine, B12 and B6 can cause tingling sensation. Very low blood sugar level, doing heavy exercises for long and starving for long periods can also cause numbness. Amyloidosis. Porphyria, menopause and thyroid hormone problems can cause tingling and numbness in specific parts of the body.
Taking epilepsy drugs for long, medications like colistimethate, dimercaprol, riluzole, thallium, metronidazole and certain kinds of antipsychotic drugs and excess of lidocaine can induce numbness.
- Cancer Treatment
Undergoing chemo therapy and radiation treatment for cancer can cause tingling feeling as side effect.
- Alcohol Abuse and Withdrawal
Taking too much of alcohol daily can affect the nerve signals causing paresthesia. Similarly withdrawal of alcohol treatment can cause a feeling of numbness and “pins and needles” in certain parts of the body.
- Other Causes
Certain types of blood related problems like polycythemia Vera, leukemia, chronic disorders like arthritis, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus, and immune related disorders can affect the nerve fibers leading to tingling and numbness.
Based on the symptoms, your doctor would first collect the medical history and order for neurological exam, followed by laboratory testing like blood culture, electromyography test, nerve conduction test and other neurological tests to detect the cause. For some people imaging tests like MRI is recommended for diagnosing the cause.
Underlying cause of the disorder is to be treated first. Tingling sensation caused due to vitamin deficiency can be corrected by taking vitamin supplements. Most of the neurological disorders can be kept under control by taking proper medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAID’s can be taken regularly or for some people steroids are prescribed for managing symptoms of numbness. Making lifestyle changes, reducing alcohol intake and practicing yoga can help in overcoming the symptoms. Doing relaxation breathing each day will gradually bring down the tingling feeing along with stress producing hormones and finally the symptoms are gone.