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Numbness and tingling

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

Definition

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

Alternative Names

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

Causes

There are many possible causes of numbness and tingling, including:

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

Home Care

Your health care provider 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 provider will discuss ways to control your blood sugar level.

Low levels of vitamins will be treated with vitamin supplements.

Medicines 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 provider.

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 provider if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

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

You will be asked about your symptoms. Questions may include when the problem began, its location, or if there's anything that improves or worsens the symptoms.

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

Blood tests that may be ordered include:

Imaging tests may include:

Other tests that may be done include:

References

McGee S. Examination of the sensory system. In: McGee S, ed. Evidence-Based Physical Diagnosis. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 62.

Snow DC, Bunney BE. Peripheral nerve disorders. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 97.

Swartz MH. The nervous system. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 18.


Review Date: 5/28/2019
Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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