Numbness is a symptom associated with a plethora of diseases and disorders. Transient numbness not accompanied by pain or changes in skin color may be a normal response to cold temperatures or other benign conditions. Persistent or recurrent numbness, however, always requires medical attention. Unless other symptoms are present, extensive testing and evaluation may be necessary before the underlying cause of the symptom is uncovered.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Various medical disorders, such as shingles, Raynaud's phenomenon, and diabetes may cause numbness in the fingers and feet. Shingles is a disorder caused by the same virus -- herpes zoster -- that causes chickenpox 1. After a period of dormancy, the virus is activated. This can cause numbness and tingling in the affected area of the body. Raynaud's phenomenon is a disorder that causes constriction of the blood vessels in the extremities, usually the toes and fingers, resulting in episodic attacks of numbness. Attacks of Raynaud's phenomenon may be triggered by cold or stress. Numbness is also a common symptom of diabetes -- over time, nerves become damaged due to prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels.
- Various medical disorders, such as shingles, Raynaud's phenomenon, and diabetes may cause numbness in the fingers and feet.
Causes of Body Tingling
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disorder characterized by damage to the myelin in the central nervous system 5. This damage interferes with the transmission of nerve signals and may cause numbness and tingling in the extremities. Other possible causes of numbness in the fingers and feet include seizure disorders; pressure on peripheral nerves caused by tumors, scar tissue, enlarged blood vessels or infection; or pressure on the nerves in the spine. Stroke and transient ischemic attack, or TIA, often cause numbness and tingling on one side of the body due to altered blood flow in the brain. Because stroke is potentially life-threatening, seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
- Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disorder characterized by damage to the myelin in the central nervous system 5.
- Other possible causes of numbness in the fingers and feet include seizure disorders; pressure on peripheral nerves caused by tumors, scar tissue, enlarged blood vessels or infection; or pressure on the nerves in the spine.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Low levels of several minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, may cause numbness in the fingers and feet. Vitamin B12 deficiency, or pernicious anemia, and some other vitamin deficiencies may also cause numbness in the extremities. Blood tests are effective at determining what deficiencies are present so that dietary changes, supplementation or other treatment options can correct the underlying deficiency and ease symptoms. Low calcium often occurs in conjunction with vitamin D deficiency, and both problems require correction before a complete resolution of symptoms is possible.
- Low levels of several minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, may cause numbness in the fingers and feet.
- Blood tests are effective at determining what deficiencies are present so that dietary changes, supplementation or other treatment options can correct the underlying deficiency and ease symptoms.
Stocking & Glove Neuropathy
Medications, radiation therapy, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and frostbite may lead to loss of sensation in the fingers and feet. Decreased circulation due to sitting or standing for prolonged periods may lead to temporary or intermittent numbness. Nerve damage due to lead poisoning is another potential cause, but this typically only occurs after months or years of exposure to the toxic metal.
Causes of Body Tingling
Stocking & Glove Neuropathy
Diseases With Symptoms Similar to Diabetes
Could Numbness in Feet Be Caused by a Vitamin Deficiency?
Numbness in the Tip of the Big Toe
Causes of Head Numbness
Neuropathy Symptoms in the Feet
Early Symptoms of HIV-Related Neuropathy
Causes of Burning Calf Pain
Causes of Elbow Pain & Tingling Fingers
- Pharmacy and Therapeutics: Presentation and Management of Herpes Zoster (Shingles) in the Geriatric Population
- Diabetes Care: Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus
- Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute: Phosphorus
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Raynaud's Phenomenon
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: NINDS Shingles Information Page
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lead Poisoning
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Sandra Ketcham has nearly two decades of experience writing and editing for major websites and magazines. Her work appears in numerous web and print publications, including "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "The Tampa Bay Times," Visit Florida, "USA Today," AOL's Gadling and "Kraze Magazine."