It’s a terrible feeling. Your hands go numb and sometimes feel tingly. It could be isolated to one hand or it could be both. It could happen while you’re awake or asleep, but you’re not sure why.
Your numbness might manifest as a tingling sensation, loss of feeling, or burning. True enough, sleeping in a weird position may cause temporary hand numbness, as can poor circulation. When it happens more frequently however, then it’s usually a sign of nerve damage.
A number of conditions could be the source of hand numbness, and we take a look at a few causes below. If you haven’t been checked out by a doctor for this recurring issue, then it’s time!
Raynaud’s is a disorder that causes the blood vessels to narrow, and commonly restricts blood flow to the digits. Changes in temperature (usually colder) can cause the arteries to constrict, blocking blood flow to the fingers (or toes). Numbness, tingling, and burning sensations are common symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system, but can show itself with a myriad of symptoms. An early warning sign of MS is numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers.
Vitamin B-12 Defiency
Within a couple of months, a B-12 deficiency can cause severe symptoms in the body including numbness in the hands. If you’re experiencing the pins-and-needles effect, you might need to up your vitamin B-12 intake.
A pinched nerve can occur anywhere in the body – spine, elbow, or wrist – leading to numbness in the hands or a few fingers. For example, a pinched ulnar nerve is linked to feelings of numbness in the pinky and ring fingers. A pinched nerve in the neck can affect an entire arm and hand.
One of the main causes of hand numbness is carpal tunnel syndrome. Pressure on the median nerve that runs through a tunnel in the wrist leads to carpal tunnel. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected hand, forearm or wrist. It may be worse at night.
Injury, diseases like diabetes, or repetitive movement can cause carpal tunnel. High risk factors include heavy use of the wrists (computers, phones, gardening, musicians, driving with a tight grip), pregnancy, heredity, obesity, or being female. Treatment may include injections, surgery, or physical exercises.
It’s important to recognize the signs of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (mini stroke) so you can seek immediate medical attention. Some people experience sudden numbness on one side of the body, in the arm and hand.
With a mini stroke, numbness or tingling may appear before the actual onset of a stroke. If this symptom shows up out of nowhere, seek emergency assistance right away!
Hypothyroidism (when the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone) can cause nerve damage over time if left untreated. An underactive thyroid is connected to carpal tunnel and inflammation that contributes to peripheral neuropathy. Weakness or numbness in your hand(s) may be a result of or sign of a thyroid issue.
High blood sugar caused by diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy. With this condition, you may have numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands. Symptoms may show up gradually and worsen over time. Treatments typically include medication, exercise, or acupuncture, or dietary changes.
Viral or bacterial infections in the bloodstream can impact the nerves. Even an abscessed tooth can cause tingling or numbness in your hand! A respiratory or gastrointestinal infection can lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes tingling and numbness in the hands or arms.
Additionally, diseases like Lyme’s, HIV, meningitis, or others caused by bacteria and viruses often cause numbness in the hands.
Injuries to your hands, wrists, neck, arms, or shoulders can directly cause pain or numbness in the hands. In some cases, it won’t be noticeable until weeks or months after the actual injury. Interconnected nerves in the upper body that are damaged from injury can affect the hands. Speak with your doctor about treatment options.
Hormonal changes that occur during menopause can affect the nerves, causing numbness and tingling in the hands (or other extremities). For many women, the feeling comes and goes while performing normal activities. In others, it may happen while asleep
Other causes of hand numbness include arthritis, cysts, or alcoholism. Pinpointing the cause of your numbness issue can help you find effective treatment. Though non-traditional remedies like exercise, massage, supplementation, or acupuncture may provide relief, other cases may require conventional medical treatments.
Speak with your health care practitioner if you’re experiencing frequent hand numbness and tingling!
Harvard Medical School