Numbness and tingling

Definition

Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body, but are often felt in your fingers, hands, feet, arms, or legs.

Alternative Names

Sensory loss; Paresthesias; Tingling and numbness; Loss of sensation

Causes

There are many possible causes of numbness and tingling:

Numbness and tingling can be caused by other medical conditions, including:

Home Care

Your doctor should find and treat the cause of your numbness or tingling. Treating the condition may make the symptoms go away or stop them from getting worse. For example, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or low back pain, your doctor may recommend certain exercises.

If you have diabetes, your doctor will discuss ways to control your blood sugar levels.

Low levels of vitamins will be treated with vitamin supplements.

Medications that cause numbness or tingling may need to be switched or changed. Do not change or stop taking any of your medicines or take large doses of any vitamins or supplements until you have talked with your doctor.

Because numbness can cause a decrease in feeling, you may be more likely to accidentally injure a numb hand or foot. Take care to protect the area from cuts, bumps, bruises, burns, or other injuries.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Go to a hospital or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if:

Call your doctor if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination, carefully checking your nervous system.

Medical history questions may include:

Your doctor may also ask you questions to determine your risk for stroke, thyroid disease, or diabetes, as well as questions about your work habits and medications.

Blood tests may include:

Imaging tests may include:

Other tests that may be done include:

References

Creager MA, Libby P. Peripheral arterial disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 57.

Rowland LP. Diagnosis of pain and paresthesias. In: Rowland LP, ed. Merritt's Neurology. 11th ed. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005:chap 5.

Mahoney BD. Spinal cord injuries. In: Wolfson AB, Hendey GW, Ling LJ, et al, eds. Harwood-Nuss' Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 30.

Farmer BM, Dowsett RB, Nelson LS. Seafood Toxins. In: Wolfson AB, Hendey GW, Ling LJ, et al, eds. Harwood-Nuss' Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 343.

Suchard JR. Scorpion envenomation. In: Wolfson AB, Hendey GW, Ling LJ, et al, eds. Harwood-Nuss' Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 357.

Playe SJ. Mammalian bites and associated infections. In: Wolfson AB, Hendey GW, Ling LJ, et al, eds. Harwood-Nuss' Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 361.

Burns MJ. Insect, tick, and mite bites and infestations. In: Wolfson AB, Hendey GW, Ling LJ, et al, eds. Harwood-Nuss' Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 360.

Rowland LP. Diagnosis of Pain and Paresthesias. In Rowland LP, Merritt HH, eds. Merritt's Neurology. 12th ed. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 8.


Review Date: 4/5/2013
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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