What causes tingling in the head?

When a person experiences a tingling sensation, they usually are experiencing paresthesia. Paresthesia occurs when a nerve is damaged or under pressure for a long time.

For example, a person may wake up with a tingling, limp arm because they slept on it all night. In most cases, the tingling goes away quickly and there are no lasting effects.

A person may also experience tingling in their head, or head paresthesia. Although this sensation may be concerning, many potential causes of a head paresthesia do not cause lasting damage.

Keep reading for more information on the possible causes of tingling in the head, as well as when to see a doctor.

1. Sinus and respiratory infections

a mixed race man with a headache and tingling in the head.

Sinus infections, colds, flus, and other infections cause a person’s sinuses to become irritated and inflamed.

As the sinuses enlarge, they can put pressure on surrounding nerves. When this occurs, it can trigger head paresthesia.

Over-the-counter cold medications, warm compresses, or steam can help reduce inflammation and relieve the pressure on the nerves. Once the pressure is released, the tingling sensation will likely resolve.

2. Anxiety or stress

When a person feels anxious or is under a lot of stress, they may feel a tingling sensation in their head.

Stress triggers the release of norepinephrine and other hormones. These are responsible for directing blood flow to the areas of the body that need it most.

As a result, extra blood is sent to the head, which may cause a person to feel a sensation of tingling.

3. Headaches and migraine

Other common causes of tingling include certain types of headache and migraine.

Cluster, eyestrain, and tension headaches may all trigger a tingling sensation in the head due to changing pressure and blood flow.

A migraine aura may occur before a migraine episode. A tingling sensation is a common part of migraine auras.

4. Diabetes

person taking blood glucose test

Diabetes occurs when the body can cannot produce insulin or cannot use it properly. Insulin is responsible for processing sugar in the blood. When there is not enough insulin, a person’s blood sugar levels can become too high and cause a variety of symptoms.

Without treatment, diabetes can lead to nerve damage. People with diabetes tend to experience nerve damage in the outer extremities, such as the feet.

However, it is possible for people to experience nerve damage in the face and head, which may be a source of tingling.

5. Substance misuse and medications

A person who uses recreational drugs or drinks excessively may experience a tingling sensation in the head.

In addition, some prescription medications — such as anticonvulsants and chemotherapy medications — may also cause a tingling sensation.

6. Injuries to the head

If a person injures the back of their head, they may damage the nerves inside the brain. As a result, they may feel a tingling sensation in the head or face.

They may also experience facial paralysis, wherein the muscles in the face do not work.

Other head injuries may damage the nerves in the outer part of the head. If this occurs, a person may also feel a temporary sensation of tingling or numbness in the affected areas.

7. Multiple sclerosis

Nearly 1 million people in the United States have multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a progressive condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack the central nervous system.

MS can damage nerves throughout the body. If it damages nerves in the face or head, a person may feel tingling in that area.

8. Simple partial seizures

Simple partial seizures can affect people with epilepsy. When a person has a simple partial seizure, they do not lose consciousness, as the seizure occurs in only one part of the brain.

Instead, someone having a simple partial seizure may experience numbness or tingling that lasts for a few minutes. The tingling may be in the head or face.

9. Autoimmune conditions

Autoimmune conditions attack parts of a person’s body. In some cases, autoimmune conditions attack the nerves and surrounding tissues. If this occurs, a person may experience tingling in the head.

Some autoimmune conditions that may cause tingling in the head include:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • lupus
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Guillain–Barré syndrome

10. Occipital neuralgia

Two occipital nerves run on both sides of the head. They from the neck to the top of the head, stopping at about the forehead.

These nerves are responsible for the feelings and sensations on the top and back of the head. If something irritates either of them, it can cause shooting pain or a tingling sensation in the head.

Occipital neuralgia is a condition that can irritate these nerves and cause tingling.

11. Other infections

Though not common, some infections can cause nerve damage in the head, which can lead to a tingling sensation.

Some bacterial or viral infections that can cause nerve damage include:

  • shingles
  • HIV
  • hepatitis C
  • encephalitis, a viral infection that causes inflammation in the brain
  • Lyme disease

12. Stroke

A stroke occurs when a person loses the blood supply to their brain for a short time. The loss of blood causes a loss of oxygen, which can damage the brain.

Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • loss of function
  • vision problems
  • tingling or numbness in different areas of the body, including the head
  • confusion
  • drooping on one side of the face

13. Trigeminal neuralgia

The trigeminal nerves run on both sides of the face and give sensation to the forehead, cheeks, teeth, and jaw.

Sometimes, the trigeminal nerve can become irritated or compressed, which can cause numbness or tingling in the face.

14. Other causes

Less commonly, some other conditions may cause a person to feel tingling in the head. Some of these are benign, while others are potentially dangerous.

These additional causes include:

  • brain tumor
  • poor posture, which puts pressure on the neck or head
  • hypothyroidism
  • vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • high blood pressure
  • skin conditions, such as eczema

When to see a doctor

doctor speaking with patient
If tingling is causing disruptions in a person’s life, they should seek advice from a doctor.

A person may not need to see a doctor if they experience tingling in the head on occasion. If the tingling comes and goes quickly, is associated with a cold or other acute infection, or comes along with a headache, it will typically go away without treatment.

However, if the tingling persists or causes interruptions to a person’s life, they should speak to their doctor as soon as possible. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a stroke or seizure should seek emergency medical attention.

Whenever a person is concerned about their symptoms, it is always best to speak to a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Summary

In most cases, tingling in the head is not a major cause for concern.

However, since there are some more serious underlying conditions that may be responsible, anyone experiencing persistent or chronic tingling in the head should speak to a doctor.

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