Is That A Spider On My Leg?
I am not a fan of spiders. I lose it when they creep into my personal space. All of their eight legs strutting into my business. Of course, I realize and am respectful of the fact that there are spider introverts who are minding their own spider business. As an introvert myself, I can empathize.
Yet, when I feel a spider crawling across my legs? I am sorry to say, my initial instinct and automatic response is to smack at my leg. Not like my more emphatic counterparts that patiently and kindly escort them back outside.
What are these weird feelings?
That said and with the common MS symptom of altered sensations, I remember feeling spiders crawl on my leg only to slap the heck out of myself with no spiders to be found. That weird feeling had a counterpart. Water would trickle down my leg. At least it felt that way.
It was especially annoying in the bathroom. It took an MS diagnosis for me to know that I was not crazy. The feeling of spiders crawling or water trickling is a multiple sclerosis symptom called paresthesia.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, paresthesia is defined by "feelings of pins and needles, tingling, buzzing, or crawling sensation"1. Ah-ha! This was what I had been feeling all along. Along with paresthesia, there are three other symptoms that fall under the numbness category:
- Dysesthesia: A burning sensation along a nerve. Changes in perceptions of touch or pressure and nonpainful contact that becomes painful.
- Hyperpathia: increased sensitivity to pain
- Anesthesia: A complete loss of any sensation, including touch, pain, or temperature1
Nerve damage before an MS diagnosis
Within my research, I found that I also lived with the symptom of dysesthesia. It seemed to explain the times that I would pull away from physical contact. It explains why, at times, I cannot tolerate the feeling of water running down my back in the shower.
I had to learn to press my back against the shower wall and slowly let the water stream downwards. This has been part of my life for as long as I can recall, even as a child. The crawling spider, the trickling water, and the sensitivity to touch.
I never thought of those things as nerve damage. They were insignificant enough that I incorporated them into my daily existence. Some people have cold hands was the way that I saw it. No one made a deal of it or suggested that there might be a medical issue that needed to be addressed. My sensitive back was like cold hands. It was a passing issue not worth mentioning.
Knowledge brings peace of mind
Just as with trigeminal neuralgia and tinnitus, I had odd bodily malfunctions that I only learned after that fact were symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It seems that every year I find other MS symptoms that were simply a bodily quirk to me.
It goes to show you that multiple sclerosis is a chronic illness that can startle even years into a diagnosis. This is simply one more reason to keep learning about MS. We have so much left to learn. Yet, at the same time, we have access to a wealth of already acquired knowledge.
It's important not to allow yourself to get complacent in your lifestyle with MS. You may miss out on such helpful information - it can allow you to connect the dots and find relief. While I cannot change or get rid of these symptoms, I can get some peace of mind when it comes to those phantom spiders and imaginary trickling waterfalls.
Do you ever feel like your feet and ankles are burning on the inside but cold to the touch?