Why Are My Hands Numb? | ReBuilder Medical

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Why Are My Hands Numb?

Unfortunately, most of the world's population has very little medical training or knowledge.  So there's nothing worse than your hands going numb with no apparent cause.  Luckily, we've compiled a list of conditions that can cause numbness.  Please remember, this is not intended as a basis for diagnosis or a substitute for medical advice.  We just want to give you a starting point if you wish to begin your own research.

How Does Numbness Occur?

All bodily sensation is recognized and transmitted by your nervous system.  The peripheral nerves, those located outside of the brain and spinal cord, take in information about temperature, pressure, and pain and relay this information to the brain.  If this communication is interruptedeither due to damage, irritation or compression of your nervesthat's when you begin losing sensation.  This can be causes by disease or by problems in your brain or spinal cord.  However, issues in the brain or spinal cord are relatively uncommon and are usually accompanied by symptoms of weakness or loss of function.

Possible Underlying Conditions

Brain and Nervous System Conditions

  • Cervical spondylosis: age-related wear and tear caused by dehydration and shrinkage of the spinal disks in your neck.  This is very common, affecting about 85% of people over 60 years of age.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome: a rare disorder where your immune system attacks your nerves, damaging the myelin sheath.  Symptoms of weakness, tingling, or numbness typically begin in the hands and feet, then quickly spread throughout the body.
  • Migraine with Aura: a reoccurring headache that follows about an hour behind bouts of sensory impairment.  Visual symptoms include blind spots, flashes of light, and vision loss.  Other symptoms include numbness, difficulty speaking, and muscles weakness.
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system: a group of uncommon disorders that develop in people with cancer, caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, or muscles.  Symptoms such as muscle weakness, loss of fine motor skills, and seizures often begin showing before a patient is even diagnosed with cancer.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: a result of damage to the peripheral nerves, located outside the brain and spinal cord.  Symptoms often include numbness, weakness, and pain.  Can also affect other areas of the body and other body functions including digestion, urination, and blood circulation.
  • Pinched nerve: can occur anywhere in the body when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by the surrounding bone, cartilage, muscles, or tendons.  Symptoms may become worse during sleep.
  • Spinal cord injury: damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal resulting in impaired strength, sensation, and other body functions below the injury site.
  • Stroke: when blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced, starving cells of oxygen and nutrients.  Symptoms typically include numbness in the face or extremities, trouble speaking, headache, loss of balance, and vision impairment.

Trauma or Overuse Injuries

  • Brachial plexus injury: occurs when the network of nerves that sends signals from the spinal cord to the arms are stretched, compressed, ripped apart, or torn away from the spinal cord. Minor injuries can occur during sports, while more serious injuries tend to result from automobile accidents.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist by the surrounding bone and ligaments.  This typically affects the thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome: when the ulnar nerve, running from your neck to your hand, is compressed or irritated by the surrounding tissues at the elbow.  This typically affects the pinky and ring finger.
  • Medial epicondylitis: when tendons on the inside of the elbow are strained by repetitive motions of the arm and wrist.  The pain can spread from inside the elbow into the forearm and wrist.  The associated numbness typically occurs in the ring and little fingers.
  • Frostbite: caused by freezing the skin and underlying tissue.  Early symptoms include cold skin and a prickling sensation.  This is followed by numbness and inflamed/discolored skin as the condition worsens.

Chronic Conditions

  • Alcohol use disorder: characterized by a pattern of uncontrolled alcohol consumption, preoccupation with alcohol, or use of alcohol even after recognizing its negative effects on your life, alcohol use disorder is a spectrum of disorders that include alcoholism. Excessive drinking can damage your nervous system over time, which can result in numbness.
  • Amyloidosis: a rare disease where abnormal proteins build up in your organs and interfere with their normal functions.  If the deposits of abnormal proteins occur in your nerves, you can experience numbness.
  • Diabetes: a group of diseases that affect how your body processes blood sugar.  Excessive sugar can damage the blood supply to your nerves, causing numbness that starts in your extremities and spreads upward.
  • Fibromyalgia: a disorder characterized by widespread pain accompanied by fatigue, memory issues, and emotional disturbances.  Women are more likely to develop the disorder and often also have tension headaches, TMJ disorders, IBS, anxiety, and depression. Symptoms typically begin after serious medical, physical, or psychological trauma.
  • Hypothyroidism: a condition where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough crucial hormones.  Symptoms such as fatigue, irregular menstrual periods, and thinning hair tend to develop slowly over multiple years.  If left untreated, it can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
  • Lupus: an autoimmune disease that can affect your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs.  It can be difficult to diagnose as its symptoms often mimic diabetes and arthritis, though its most distinct symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks.
  • Multiple sclerosis: a disease of the brain and spinal cord where the immune system attacks the myelin sheath protecting the nerves.  Numbness or weakness in the limbs is typical, as well as partial or complete loss of vision.
  • Raynaud's disease: a disease that causes your extremities to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress because of narrowing arteries and limited blood supply.  Fingertips and toes often turn white or blue during attacks.
  • Sjogren's syndrome: an immune system disorder identified by dry eyes and dry mouth that typically accompanies other immune system disorders.  Numbness in your hands is a less common complication.

Infectious Diseases

  • Lyme disease: a bacterial infection spread by deer ticks, its early symptoms include a bull’s-eye shaped rash that slowly expands, flu-like symptoms, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Shingles: after being infected with chickenpox, the virus can lay dormant in the body until reactivation as shingles later in life.  It causes a painful rash that typically manifests as a stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of the torso.
  • Syphilis: a sexually transmitted infection that begins as a painless sore near the site of infection that progresses into a rash: beginning on the trunk and eventually covering the entire body.  If left untreated, symptoms may become dormant until internal systems become damaged.

Other Causes

  • Ganglion cyst: a noncancerous lump that develop in the wrists or hands and typically appear round or ovular, filled with jellylike fluid.  If they press on nearby nerves, they can cause numbness.
  • Vasculitis: inflammation of the blood vessels, causing the vessel walls to thicken and restrict blood flow.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency: a lack of B-12 in your diet can impede red blood cell formation, nerve function, and production of DNA.  It’s an uncommon condition in the US, but older people, vegetarians, vegans, and people with certain disorders are at a higher risk.

Treatment Side Effects

Certain medicines and medical treatments can cause numbness.  Below, we’ve listed some of the most common treatments with numbness as a side effect.

  • Antibiotics
  • Antiseizure drugs
  • Chemotherapy
  • Heart or blood pressure drug
  • HIV drugs

When to See a Doctor

At the first sign of numbness, call your doctor or health care provider as this can be the first symptoms of a larger issue.  If you are experiencing numbness that spreads throughout the body, seek emergency medical help immediately.

How the ReBuilder® Can Help

We understand we’ve given you a lot to consider in this article, but hopefully, the conversation doesn’t stop here.  Once you’ve identified the cause of your numbness, you can begin treating the symptoms.  If you would like to learn more about how you can regain feeling and begin to repair damaged nerves, please feel free to call us directly at 877-717-5487.  If you’d like to try the ReBuilder® for yourself, check out our Find A Doctor page to find a participating physician near you or check out our online store if you’re ready to order your own!

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