What Causes Head Tingling?

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  • Originally Written By: Sarah Sullins
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2019
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A number of different things can cause a person to feel the sensation of head tingling, but the most common tend to be diabetes, migraines, and head colds. In the case of diabetes the tingling can be more or less constant, and often comes and goes without warning as a consequence of the nerve damage that is commonly a part of the disease. With both migraines and respiratory infections, though, the sensation is usually very temporary. Other potential causes could include trauma or brain injury and misuse of certain drugs, and in both of these cases the symptom is usually more serious because it often indicates a permanent or persistent problem with brain tissue. Most experts recommend that people mention any tingling to their care providers during regular check-ups, and get help when the sensation lasts for more than a few days at a time.

Understanding the Tingling Sensation

Head tingling is often known medically as head paresthesia. Paresthesia is generally described as a pins and needles sensation that might also involve feelings of creeping, burning, or partial numbness. Nerve damage is most often the cause of this type of sensation since nerve entrapment or pressure can confuse or delay signals to and from the brain. Sensations that reoccur or are hard to deal with may indicate conditions that need immediate medical attention.



Diabetes is one of the most common causes of persistent head paresthesia, though it most often occurs in patients who have lived with diabetes for many years and have not controlled their blood sugar levels very well during that time. Some autoimmune factors may also contribute to the development of nerve disorders. The damaged nerves caused by these disorders may result in a tingling, aching, or burning sensation in certain areas of the body, including the head.

Migraines and Brain Pressure Issues

People who suffer from migraine headaches may also experience this sort of tingling for more sustained periods of time. In most cases this is owing to the changes in blood flow that occur during a migraine attack. Experts aren’t exactly sure what cause migraine headaches, but most agree that the problem is rooted in brain chemistry, and the pain that patients experience is owing to problems with brain signals. The result is often an intense throbbing or painful sensation that is concentrated in one part of the head, and can last for several days. Tingling isn’t always a symptom, but it can be.

Fluid buildup in the brain may also be to blame. In these cases, pockets of blood or cerebral fluid can get caught, usually temporarily, in the inner channels of the brain, and nerve signals to the face, scalp, and neck may be caught or pinched in the process. This can lead to feelings of numbness or tingling, though it should go way on its own; if it doesn’t, experts usually screen for problematic pressure problems or growths that could be causing things to go more permanently awry.

Colds and Sinus Infections

Tingling is also somewhat common when people get bad colds and sinus infections. In both of these situations, the air passageways in the upper face can become inflamed or blocked, and the nerves that serve that region can be comprised and confused. Congestion often puts pressure on cranial nerves, too. In most cases the sensation goes away on its own as a person recovers.

Trauma or Injury

Any kind of trauma or injury can also result in damage to a person’s nerves, and in certain cases this can alsolead to feelings of numbness, particularly if the nerves are close to the head, such as in the neck. People who suffer from whiplash or injuries involving muscular strain in the face and neck are often at risk, as is anyone who has suffered a serious concussion. Nerves can also be damaged because of an infection in the body, though, which can be harder to identify right away.

Certain Drug Use

Head tingling may also come about as a side effect of certain prescription medication. If a patient experiences this side effect and it is troublesome, he should seek medical assistance immediately, as the tingling may be a sign of a dangerous reaction. Care providers often decide to change the medication or reduce the amount that is taken to see if that will reduce the sensation.

A number of narcotics, particularly those in the opiate family, can also be a cause. In these instances the tingling is usually a result of long-term nerve damage or nerve ending blunting. This isn’t always dangerous in the short term, but can lead to pretty substantial problems if left untreated. Elimination of these drugs will generally stop the problem, but depending on how long a person has been using the substances it may take months if not years to completely reverse the results.

Getting Help

Tingling that comes and goes or seems to be directly linked to another problem like a head cold isn’t usually anything that people should be worried about, but most experts recommend at least making note of problems and paying attention to how long feelings of tingling last. Care providers often find it important to know all of a patient’s health history, even the details that don’t seem all that relevant, in order to provide the most comprehensive care. In addition, anyone who is concerned about tingling or notices that the problem has lasted for more than a few days should usually get evaluated in order to rule out any serious conditions.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

I had a head tingling feeling for the first time last year. I went to the doctor because it seems brain problems run in my family. My grandma had a brain tumor, my aunt had a stroke and my mom had a brain aneurysm. They did an MRI and said everything was fine. After a few weeks it slowly went away.

Now a year later I'm having the same tingling feeling again! I have been stressed a lot and don't know how to handle my feelings. I haven't been to the doctor again yet. I want to bring up my stress and anxiety but I'm embarrassed. I feel judged by everyone, even doctors.

Post 3

@ankara-- Do you have anxiety?

I suffer from anxiety and head tingles is something I experience frequently too. Sometimes the tingling is also in my feet and hands. It's very weird but my doctor said that it's normal.

I know that some medications can cause this as a side effect as well. So you might want to check the side effects of any medications or supplements you're on.

Post 2

I have tingling in my head that comes and goes. I feel it on my forehead, face and the top of my head. There are times when I don't get it for a few days, and there times when I have it multiple times in the same day. I'm not sick so I don't know what's going on.

Post 1

I had never heard of head tingling being caused by diabetes before.

I have diabetes and I'm aware that untreated diabetes can cause nerve damage. But I always thought that the nerve damage causes tingling and numbness in the feet and legs. I didn't know that these symptoms could affect the head as well. I'm going to ask my doctor about this because I've been experiencing an odd tingling sensation in my head for a few weeks. It's about time for my routine blood test to check sugar levels anyway.

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