Tingling and Numb Fingers | Ask the Doctor
12 Causes of Numbness in Your Fingers and Hands
If you're a tennis player of golfer—or partake in any activity that requires repetitive twisting of the hand, wrist, or elbow—you're at risk for epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, Dr. Danoff says. This condition stems from the wearing down or weakening of tendons that wrap across your elbow, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH).
While full-blown tennis elbow tends to manifest as pain in your elbow or forearm, early signs are a numbness or tingling in your hands. If you experience either, take a break from the offending sport or activity for a bit. If it comes back, let your doctor know about it.
"It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but a thyroid disorder could lead to hand numbness," Dr. Danoff says.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, an under-active thyroid—or hypothyroidism—can result in damage to the nerves that transport information between your brain and spinal cord and the rest of your body. Especially if you're experiencing other symptoms of an underactive thyroid—hair loss, weight gain, feeling cold all the time—it's time to talk with your physician. (Fix your out-of-whack hormones and lose weight for good .)
Long-term heavy drinking can lead to alcoholic "neuropathy"—or nerve damage, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Up to half of all heavy alcohol users develop some form of this condition, per the NLM. And other symptoms include numbness in your arms or legs, weird "pins and needles" sensations in your limbs, and muscle weakness or spasms.
If you've struggled with alcoholism or you're a long-term heavy drinker—usually defined as having more than three drinks a day for women, or four for men—this could be the cause of your numbness.
This is what alcohol does to your body:
Ganglion cysts are non-cancer lumps or deposits that can form anywhere on your body—but tend to show up on or around your joints. According to the ASSH, ganglion cysts are super common. And if one forms on your wrist, numbness is a common symptom.
These cysts sometimes go away on their own. If they don't, and they're causing pain or numbness, surgery or "aspiration"—a procedure where a doc drains the cyst of its fluid—are treatment options.
This is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your nerves, causing damage that can result in hand numbness. It's often preceded by a respiratory illness, stomach flu, or other type of infectious illness. Other symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome include prickling sensations in your fingers, toes, ankles, or wrists, weakness in your legs, unsteady walking, rapid heart rate, poor bladder or bowel control, and difficulty with facial movements like chewing.
Early signs of Lyme include serious fatigue, a skin rash, and flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, or body aches. If left untreated, joint pain and hand or limb numbness are some of the symptoms associated with the later stages of Lyme. If you've been spending a lot of time in the woods, or you suffered a tick bite, Lyme could explain your numbness.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which your immune system attacks a fatty substance that protects the nerve fibers of your brain and spinal cord. That can result in hand numbness, Dr. Danoff says.
While MS can strike at any age, it's most likely to show up during your 20s and 30s. And women are twice as likely as men to suffer from MS. While symptoms are all over the map, limb and muscle weakness, as well as double vision, are some of the red flags that could coincide with a sufferer's hand numbness. (Here are 5 warning signs of MS that you should know.)
Dr. Danoff says hand numbness or tingling could be a sign that you're having a stroke. Other early symptoms include a crooked smile, slurred speech or problems thinking, dizziness, and blurry vision. If all those describe what you're feeling, go to the ER immediately. (You should also head to the ER right away if you experience any of these 10 symptoms.)
Even if you're young, you can still have a stroke. About 10 percent of all stroke victims are younger than 45. And being fit and physically active doesn't mean you're not at risk.
By now you probably know that frequent peeing, excessive thirst, and high-ish blood sugar levels are all signs of prediabetes—or that not-quite-diabetes state that means you're at major risk for the disease. If you're experiencing any of those symptoms, you need to see a doctor immediately.
But many people who develop full-blown type 2 diabetes don't realize it. (Here are 8 warning signs of type 2 diabetes you shouldn't ignore.) And, if left untreated, hand numbness can develop as a result of diabetes-related nerve damage, Dr. Danoff says. Blurry vision, kidney trouble, and heart failure are all risks associated with untreated diabetes.
If your numbness is accompanied by frigid fingers, you may have Raynaud's, a condition in which smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin narrow and limit circulation. Raynaud's can be excruciating, and some people also notice their fingers turning white or blue during an episode. Experts aren't sure what causes this condition, but they do know women are more likely to have it, and that it often begins between the ages of 15 and 30.
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