Causes of numbness in fingers and toes
Numbness in the fingers and toes can be characterized by a tingling, prickling, or burning sensation in the extremities. This can make it difficult to perform simple tasks and make your hands and feet feel as though they are weak and clumsy. Even if it is just an infrequent annoyance, numbness in the extremities is not something that goes unnoticed. Causes of numbness in fingers and toes
Numbness in fingers and toes: Symptoms and signs
The main symptom of numbness in the fingers and toes is a tingling and prickling feeling known as paresthesia. Paresthesia can be either chronic or temporary, and nearly everyone has experienced it at some point. It can also be felt as itching or burning—or pins and needles—and is experienced by most when a limb “falls asleep.” While temporary paresthesia can be resolved by simply changing your position, chronic paresthesia may be a warning sign for a more serious disorder and, as such, it is important to consult your doctor if the itching or tingling persists. Causes of numbness in fingers and toes
Causes of numbness in fingers and toes
There are a variety of reasons that someone would experience numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes. Some of the most common and generic causes are:
- Remaining in one position for an extended period
- Damage to a nerve in the neck or lower back may cause numbness in the fingers and toes
- Pressure on the nerves due to a herniated disk
- Lack of blood pressure and circulation to the affected area, caused by frostbite or blood vessel inflammation
- Irregular levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium
- Use of specific medicines
- Lower than normal levels of vitamins, such as B12
- Insect or animal bites
- Toxins found in seafood
The numbness and tingling may also be a symptom of a more serious condition or disease, such as:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, in which pressure is placed upon a nerve in the wrist resulting in finger numbness
- Multiple sclerosis
- Transient ischemic attack, also known as a “mini-stroke”
- Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism
- Raynaud’s disease, or the narrowing of blood vessels in the hands and feet
Numbness in the fingers and toes can also be caused by other medical conditions such as unstable or stable angina, rheumatoid arthritis, an imbalance of electrolytes, and even withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.
Numbness in fingers and toes: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
Numbness in the extremities can be diagnosed by visiting your doctor. Your physician will begin by reviewing your medical history and examining your arm and hand, as well as your fingers. They may recommend that you see a specialist, such as an orthopedist, who works with hands and feet, or a neurologist who can evaluate the functioning of your nerves. Your physician may also order an MRI to see whether a bone in the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, or fingers has slipped out of place and is compressing a nerve, resulting in the numbness or tingling. Finally, your doctor may take a blood test to examine whether your numbness is due to rheumatoid arthritis or a vitamin deficiency.
Treatment of numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes may be carried out at home, provided your doctor has not diagnosed you with a more serious condition. Your physician will recommend a course of action depending on the cause of your numbness. For example, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, they may suggest specific stretches or exercises to help ease the compression of the nerve. Your doctor will provide recommendations specific to your diagnosis in order to provide the best treatment possible. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will suggest ways to manage your blood sugar levels to ease any symptoms, including the tingling. Similarly, numbness caused by a vitamin deficiency can be treated by supplements or a change in diet, while current medications that list numbness as a side effect may be changed to an alternative.
When to see your doctor
Be sure to contact a medical professional if the numbness is accompanied by confusion, difficulty breathing, dizziness, headache, slurred speech, or a sudden weakness or paralysis, as this may be an indicator of a medical emergency. Scheduling an appointment with your doctor is recommended if the numbness is chronic and affecting your ability to complete daily tasks, or causing a severe amount of pain or discomfort.
Numbness and tingling in your fingers and toes can be caused by a variety of issues, ranging from staying in one position too long all the way to being a warning sign for a stroke. Make sure to contact your doctor if these sensations are disrupting your daily life to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, or seek immediate medical attention if you feel you may be experiencing an emergency.
Causes of numbness in fingers and toes Causes of numbness in fingers and toes Causes of numbness in fingers and toes
About the Author
Dr. Victor Marchione received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and continued on to do his Medical Degree at the University of Messina. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for more than 20 years.
Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the NBC Today Show. As well as being on the Advisory Board for Bel Marra Health, he is also the editor of the Health eTalk newsletter.View All Articles