Health Female Adda
1 year ago
What It's Like to Live Without Your Sense of Touch

Take note: The ability to feel is a major health boon.

A hug, a hand on the arm, even petting a dog can release mood-boosting hormones and foster social bonds that lead to long-term happiness. Yet touch is another sense that dwindles naturally with age. Each decade, you lose more nerves that perceive sensations such as pain, heat, cold, itching, and vibrations, says David Linden, Ph.D., author of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind. Not caring for your skin now may fast-track the deterioration. Common hiccups—stepping on a shard of glass, slicing your finger with a kitchen knife—can also temporarily or permanently mangle touch receptors, says James Harrop, M.D., a professor of neurological surgery at Thomas Jefferson University.

RELATED: What It's Like to Live Without Your Sense of Taste


Julie Malloy, 33, from York, Pennsylvania, told Women's Health what it's like to live without the sense of touch:

I was born with a rare sensory illness that leaves me unable to feel pain, temperature, deep pressure, or vibrations in my arms, legs, and the majority of my chest and back. I use vision to compensate as much as I can—when I stand, I always watch my feet so I don't lose my balance.

I always wash my face with cold water; I once burned myself without realizing it. In the shower, I have to hold a handlebar to avoid toppling over. When I drive, I can't really tell how hard I'm pushing on the pedals. I watch others really enjoy it when someone kisses their arm or get tingly when someone hugs them, but I can't even feel anything during sex.

That said, I try not to let my lack of touch stop me. I still take on challenges I probably shouldn't, like going roller-skating.


RELATED: What It's Like to Live with a Degenerative Disease


Reduce Your Risk

Glove It or Leave It
Slip on a pair of gloves when gardening (thorns!); use rubber ones if you're going to be in direct contact with potential nerve wreckers like bleach or paint thinner.

Get Creamed
If your fingertips are too dry, you may find it harder to discern subtle differences in textures (e.g., a silk shirt versus a rayon one). Soap can strip away moisture, so rub on lotion after washing your hands.

Refit Your Kicks
Too-tight shoes can compress or even kill off touch-detecting nerves. When shopping, pull the insoles out and step your feet on top of them. "If your toes spill over the edges, the toe box is too narrow and will cause problems," says Golden Harper, founder of Altra shoes.

RELATED: What It's Like to Live Without Your Sense of Smell

For more on what it's like to live with limited senses, pick up the October 2015 issue of Women's Health, on newsstands now.

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