Numbness is a complete or partial loss of feeling or sensation in any area of your body. Most cases of numbness aren’t serious, but severe cases can lead to complications such as not being able to feel pain. If you’re experiencing any numbness that doesn’t have an obvious cause, see your healthcare provider.
Numbness is a loss of feeling or sensation in an area of your body. It can be complete (no feeling at all) or partial (less feeling than usual). It usually affects your hands, fingers, feet, arms or legs, but it can occur in any part of your body. Numbness is usually a sign of a problem with your nerves, although it’s a common symptom of many different medical conditions.
Most cases of numbness aren’t serious. In more severe cases, it can cause complications related to not feeling pain (for example, causing burns if you’re unable to feel the pain from high heat) or being unaware of what’s happening to parts of your body (for example, falling if you’re unable to feel the position of your feet). You may not be able to tell hot from cold or sense vibrations. Numbness can also cause issues with balance and coordination. It can affect your ability to drive or walk.
Along with numbness, you may also have tingling or a pins-and-needles feeling in your body. You may also experience weakness and paralysis.
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Numbness has many possible causes. A problem with one or more nerves usually causes the symptom. When a nerve is damaged, it interferes with your body’s ability to feel normal sensations.
Some cases of numbness involve abnormal pressure on the nerves in and around your spine. Conditions that may cause this numbness include:
Other medical conditions that may cause numbness include:
Other conditions that may cause numbness include:
Healthcare providers diagnose numbness based on your symptoms, medical history and a physical exam (testing touch, temperature, reflexes and muscle function). Your provider will ask you about the affected body part(s) and ask you to describe the numbness. Other questions will include:
Answers to these questions can help your provider determine the cause of the numbness.
Tests to identify the disorder causing numbness include blood tests, imaging tests and other studies.
A healthcare provider will take a blood sample to look for signs of conditions, including diabetes, kidney disorders and vitamin deficiencies. Blood tests may include:
Imaging tests allow healthcare providers to look for issues affecting your nerves and spinal cord, such as a herniated disk or a tumor. They may use imaging to look at your brain for signs of stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumors and other brain disorders. Imaging tests may include:
Other studies may include the following:
Treatment for numbness varies according to the cause. The goal of treatment is to correct the condition causing the numbness. Your healthcare provider will determine the best treatment for you based on the underlying condition and the nerves involved. Some common treatments for numbness include:
Because the causes of numbness vary greatly, some cases require more urgent medical care than others. Seek emergency medical attention if you have numbness along with:
Also, seek emergency care if numbness:
Most cases of numbness are less urgent, but a healthcare provider should still assess them. Contact your provider if numbness:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Numbness means you have a complete or partial loss of feeling or sensation in any area of your body. It has many possible causes but most often concerns your nerves. Most cases of numbness aren’t serious, but severe cases can lead to complications related to not feeling pain or being unaware of what’s happening to parts of your body. If you’re experiencing any numbness that doesn’t have a clear cause, see your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/21/2023.
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