Numbness in hands or fingers is a result of affected blood vessels or nerves that are present in the hand. Tingling and numbness mostly go hand in hand and are prickling sensations that may happen anywhere in the body. These sensations are usually felt in the hands, fingers, arms, feet, and legs. Everyone has had aches and pains in their hands, whether it’s because of exhaustion, muscle pull, or a bump. However, if the pain persists and is followed by numbness or tingling which affects one’s performance or daily tasks, there must be an underlying medical condition. If you’re thinking about what causes numbness in hands, this is a detailed post to explain the medical condition.
What causes numbness in hands?
Various factors can cause tingling and numbness in fingers, but determining what causes numbness in fingers is the important task. Sometimes, the numbness is light, but in many cases, this feeling is severe and causes restlessness. Following is a list of medical conditions that cause tingling in hands. This list of factors includes serious and degenerative causes.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the tingling or numbness in hands because of damage or pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve runs from the forearm and hand and reaches the wrist through a space called the carpal tunnel. This nerve is responsible for the control, movement, and feeling in the thumb and fingers excluding the little finger. Any damage to this nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
The causes include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, and swelling due to exertion. The median nerve can also be damaged by making similar hand movements or an injury that causes swelling. This is one of the most common reasons, and there is no serious medical condition that causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
If it is left untreated, it can get worse at night. This condition affects the fingers and causes pins and needles, weakness, dull ache in the arm or hand, and overall numbness and tingling in the whole hand.
Sometimes, hand pain and numbness stems from pain or problems in the neck. When the nerve root in the cervical spine gets disturbed or compressed, it can affect the nerves and blood vessels anywhere such as in the back, shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. This is called cervical radiculopathy because the pain and numbness travel along the radicular nerve.
To understand this condition, you should now that there are eight main nerve roots that exist in the spine, which are from C1 to C8. These nerve roots branch into smaller nerves and reach different body parts such as hands and legs. Numbness in hands or fingers occurs when the C6, C7, or C8 nerve roots are affected.
This pain and numbness can range from slight tingling to severe numbness and shock-like feeling. It is similar to the tingling that happens when you sleep in a wrong posture, and your arm gets affected.
Tingling in hands and numb fingertips are common signs of diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes can affect various parts of the body and can weaken muscle strength and sensation. Diabetic neuropathy mainly occurs in people with diabetes who don’t control their blood glucose levels, body weight, cholesterol, or blood pressure. The risk increases when you get older and have had diabetes for many years. Diabetes damages the blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the nerves and as a result, the patient feels symptoms such as numb fingertips and tingling in hands. Since the damage begins with the smallest nerves, the numbness develops quickly, and the pins and needles sensation is felt in various parts of the body, especially hands and legs.
Sometimes, diabetic neuropathy doesn’t show any symptoms, but often, it can cause tingling or numbness in hands, feet, legs, and even the organ systems. This nerve damage is mostly because of prolonged damage to the blood vessels due to the high blood glucose levels in the body.
Numbness in hands can also occur because of a complicated form of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that can affect not only the joints but also other parts of the body. It is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints and, if it happens in the hands, can cause numb fingertips and tingling in the hands.
Rheumatoid arthritis is different from carpal tunnel syndrome as it affects the joints in any part of the body. This type of arthritis is an auto-immune disorder that causes pain, swelling, and tenderness in the joints. The painful swelling causes numbness and can even lead to joint deformity and bone disorder. Overall, this is a more complicated form of numbness and should be treated as soon as possible. If someone has rheumatoid arthritis, they can also develop carpal tunnel syndrome, so you should not take this disease lightly.
Raynaud’s disease is another main cause of numbness and tingling in hands and fingers. This type of medical condition causes specific areas of the body to feel numb, stressful, or frozen. Raynaud’s disease is more likely to happen in women and occurs mostly in people who live in colder regions. A person with this disease can have cold toes or fingers, stinging pain in hands or legs, and a stinging pain or prickly feeling in different parts of the body.
During the numbness attack, the affected areas of this disease turn white at first. As the numbness and pain progress, the skin turns blue and the person feels tingling and cold. When a person applies a warm compress to relieve the pain, the circulation improves, and the skin turns red and swells. It is not necessary that everyone experiences the same color changes and feelings, and the symptoms may differ from person to person.
Although Raynaud’s disease mostly affects the hands, fingers, and toes, it can cause numbness and tingling in other areas too such as nose, ears, and lips.
Vitamins B1, B6, B12, and E and niacin are important for the healthy function of the nerves in all parts of the body. Too much or too less of any of these vitamins can lead to neuropathy, which causes numbness in hands and fingers. For example, too much B6 can cause tingling in hands and fingers, and a deficiency of B12 can lead to anemia, which is one of the main causes of neuropathy, i.e., nerve damage. The B-vitamins are critical as they help convey messages through the nerves to all the body parts and are beneficial for the correct functioning of the muscles and organs. The B-vitamins are mostly present in animal sources, so if your diet contains less meat, you’re more likely to suffer from various diseases which cause numbness in hands.
Ulnar nerve entrapment
Ulnar nerve entrapment affects the ulnar nerve that runs on the side of the arm and ends in the little finger. It occurs when the ulnar nerve gets damaged due to irritation or compression. This nerve is one of the three main nerves in the arm, and it also passes through the neck before reaching the arms. If any compression or injury is caused to this nerve, it gets affected, and the person starts feeling numb or a tingling sensation in the hands.
One of the most common reasons of damage of this nerve is its compression behind the elbow. When the ulnar nerve gets damaged behind the elbow, the condition is called ‘cubital tunnel syndrome.’ Cubital tunnel syndrome is also one of the reasons that cause numb fingertips and tingling in hands.
This nerve can also be damaged from the neck portion or due to stress in the arms or hands. Some of the common causes of compression on the elbow are bending of the elbow, leaning on the elbow for a long time, fluid build-up in the elbow, and a major blow directly to the elbow.
Alcoholic neuropathy is caused when the nerves in the body get damaged due to excessive use of alcohol. The main symptom of alcoholic neuropathy is tingling in hands and numb fingertips. Alcohol is very toxic in nature, and it affects the nerves in the body too. People who consume large amounts of alcohol may start feeling pain and numbness in hands because of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy means that the peripheral nerve, which transmits the signals between the brain, body, and spinal cord, has been damaged.
Alcoholic neuropathy affects both sensation and movement of different parts of the body. This is because alcohol affects the level of nutrients in the body and decreases the presence of the essential minerals and vitamins. The reduction of the essential nutrients causes certain deficiencies that lead to numbness and tingling sensation. This condition is not fatal, but it can stop you from performing the basic tasks of daily life.
Arms and legs are the most affected parts of the body due to alcoholism. A person may feel numbness, prickly sensations, tingling, cramps, movement disorders, loss of muscle function, muscle weakness, and pins and needles. To cure this condition, prescribed pain relievers and vitamin supplements are used.
Cervical spondylosis is the wear and tear that causes the spinal disks in the neck to stop functioning properly. This wear and tear is mostly caused in old age as the disks start to shrink and dehydrate. Cervical spondylosis is very common in aged people, and it gets worse as age increases. According to a study, more than 80% of individuals older than 60 years of age suffer from this condition.
Sometimes, it just seems like normal neck pain, but it affects the other nerves too such as the ulnar nerve that reaches the hands. When the disks in the neck dislocate due to wear and tear, they cause swelling in the ulnar or median nerve, which causes numbness and tingling in hands and fingers.
Sometimes, cervical spondylosis does not have any symptoms and when the situation gets worse, it starts causing pain in various parts of the body, especially the hands and fingers. The pain comes and goes, but it can also become persistent if not treated properly.
The systematic diseases include liver disease, kidney disorders, hormonal problems, inflammation, chronic tissue disorders, cysts, vascular damage, benign tumors, and cancers. These type of diseases can affect the nerves too when spread to different parts of the body. Nerves have an important function in the body and when there is some disease, the whole body gets affected. Cancers, inflammation, and hypothyroidism can cause impingement of nerves, which can lead to numbness and tingling feelings in the hands, fingers, and legs.
Spinal cord injury
An injury to the spinal cord can cause enormous damage as it can affect any major nerve that leads to other parts of the body. A severe injury can cause permanent damage to the function, movement, strength and sensation of the body parts, especially the hands and legs. If a person receives an injury to the spinal cord, it could be expected that it will affect their life to a huge extent. Such an injury can also cause paralysis and persistent numbness in the hands and legs.
Repairing spinal cord injuries is next to impossible, but research is ongoing to save the lives of people affected by such trauma. Thus, spinal cord injury can also be one of the factors that cause pins and needles feelings, numbness, and tingling in hands and fingers.
AIDS is a life-threatening disease and is caused by HIV. This virus interferes the immune system of the body and gradually finishes its ability to fight against diseases. AIDS is also one of the causes of numb fingertips and tingling in hands as it causes inflammation in the nerves and causes them to swell and hurt. Sometimes, the medicines and drugs taken by AIDS patients can also cause numbness and tingling in hands, fingers, and legs.
Neuralgia is a burning, stabbing, and severe pain that occurs due to a damaged nerve. This sensation can occur in any part of the body and occurs mainly due to aging, diabetes, and some types of infections. Neuralgia is caused when the trigeminal nerve, which travels from the brain to other parts of the body, gets affected. There are many types of this disease, but the one that causes numbness in hands and tingling in fingertips is called trigeminal neuralgia. Neuralgia mostly causes numbness and pain in the face and neck, but sometimes, it can cause tingling sensations in hands too.