There are many ways a person can be affected by loss of feeling (sensation). Click on the plus symbols in the interactive graphic below to learn more about how different parts of the body are affected.
Loss of feeling may mean that a person is unable to feel the effects of pressure on their skin and therefore may not regularly change their position to prevent skin damage. Skin can become shiny, discoloured and damaged.
Leg and Foot
As with the ‘arm’, loss of feeling/altered sensation may affect proprioception and result in the person being unaware of what position their leg/foot is in. It may also affect a person’s balance and make them unsteady on their feet.
For example, a person may be sitting in a chair unaware that their foot is ‘caught’ around the chair leg. If this position is sustained it can put considerable strain on the ankle and may cause swelling and bruising.
Loss of feeling may also mean that the person may not notice symptoms of complications such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
It is also worth noting that due to loss of feeling the person may not be aware that they have sustained a fracture following a fall.
Loss of feeling/altered sensation can also affect a person’s ability to know where various parts of their body are located in relation to each other. This is known as ‘proprioception’.
For example a person may be sitting in a chair unaware that their arm is hanging off over the side of the armrest. If this position is sustained it will put a considerable strain on the shoulder and their arm/hand is likely to become swollen/oedematous.
A stroke which causes arm weakness can often result in the shoulder becoming ‘subluxed’ (see Core Competency 7: Limb weakness for further information) Correct moving, handling and positioning is essential to help manage this problem.
However, if a person has loss/altered feeling in their arm they will be less aware of pain and therefore also less likely to be careful of their arm to protect it from further damage.
Loss of feeling in the face may lead to difficulties with eating and drinking.
A person may be susceptible to burns and scalds if they are unaware of the temperature of hot food/drinks. Loss of feeling in the face/mouth may also make chewing and swallowing difficult.
Page last reviewed: 23 Jan 2020