What is numbness in hands?
Numbness in the hands is an irregular feeling that can be the symptom of many different conditions. It is also called paresthesia.
What are possible causes of numbness in hands?
Numbness in the hands can have many causes, which run from mild and temporary to serious medical conditions. The most common cause is damage or compression of the nerves in the hand.
Other causes of numbness in the hands include:
- Nerve damage in the hands, arm or neck
- A herniated disc that puts pressure on the spinal nerves
- Nerve pressure caused by tumors, infection, or enlarged blood vessels
- Herpes infection
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition in which pressure is placed on the nerves in the wrist. This often affects those who use their hands and wrists for work, such as typing.
- Hardening of the arteries causing a lack of blood to the area
- Poor circulation from diabetes
- Migraine headaches
- Underactive thyroid
- Raynaud’s syndrome, which causes artery spasms that reduce blood flow to the hands
- Animal or insect bites
- Certain medications
- Lack of vitamin B12
- Abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium
- Excessive alcohol use
- Lyme disease
When to Call the Doctor
When should you seek medical attention for numbness in hands?
If numbness in your hands persists for more than a short while, you should seek prompt medical attention. It could be a sign of a serious medical condition.
It is especially important to seek prompt attention if your symptoms are accompanied by any of the following:
- Numbness in other parts of your body
- Slurred speech
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
What will your physician to do determine the cause of your hand numbness?
Your healthcare provider will begin your examination by taking a medical history to determine the duration of your numbness and other possible symptoms.
He or she may then perform several tests to determine the cause, including:
- Blood count
- Thyroid function tests
- Tests for vitamin levels
- Toxicology reports
- Tests of your electrolyte levels
Several other tests may be done to rule out serious causes such as tumors and strokes. These include:
- CT scans of the head and spine
- MRI of the head and spine
- Ultrasound of neck vessels
- Angiogram to see insider the blood vessels for congestion
- Lumbar puncture to check for nervous system disorders
- Electromyography to check your nerve stimulation
Once your healthcare provider has determined the cause of your hand numbness, he or she will determine the best way to treat the underlying condition of this symptom.