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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


    Common Causes

    There are many possible causes:

    • Remaining in the same seated or standing position for a long time
    • Injury to a nerve -- for example, a neck injury may cause you to feel numbness anywhere along your arm or hand, while a low back injury can cause numbness or tingling down the back of your leg
    • Pressure on the spinal nerves, such as from a herniated disk
    • Pressure on peripheral nerves from enlarged blood vessels, tumors, scar tissue, or infection
    • Shingles or herpes zoster infection
    • Lack of blood supply to an area -- for example, cholesterol (plaque) build up from atherosclerosis in the legs can cause pain, numbness, and tingling while walking (this is called vascular claudication); frostbite can also reduce blood supply and lead to numbness
    • Other medical conditions, including:
      • Carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on a nerve at the wrist)
      • Diabetes
      • Migraines
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • Seizures
      • Stroke
      • Transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a "mini-stroke"
      • Underactive thyroid
      • Raynaud's phenomenon
    • Abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium in your body
    • A lack of vitamin B12 or other vitamin
    • Use of certain medications
    • Toxic nerve damage due to lead, alcohol, or tobacco
    • Radiation therapy