By Medicover Hospitals / 12 Jan 2021
Numbness refers to the total or partial loss of sensation. It can be a symptom of a malfunction of the nervous system. Temporary numbness and tingling can occur after spending too much time sitting cross-legged or resting your head on a crooked arm.
- What is Numbness?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home Remedies
What is Numbness?
Numbness or weakness can occur in many areas of our body. Most of us have encountered some sort of numbness or weakness from sleeping the wrong way to sitting for an extended period. While the condition may be short-lived, there may underlie health problems that exacerbate the problem. In some cases, numbness can even indicate a medical emergency, such as a stroke.
Numbness (lost, reduced, or altered sensation) and tingling (a strange itchy sensation) are types of temporary paresthesia. After sitting or standing in a certain position or even wearing tight clothes for too long, these sensations usually occur. This puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, reducing sensation.
Causes of numbness:
Many things, including some drugs, can cause numbness and tingling. Things we do every day can sometimes cause numbness, such as sitting or standing in one position for a long time, sitting cross-legged, or falling asleep on the arm.
Many conditions can make you feel numb and tingly, such as:
Sometimes a specific injury can cause numbness or tingling, such as an injured nerve in the neck or a herniated disc in the spine.
Putting pressure on a nerve is a common cause. A nerve may be placed under strain by carpal tunnel syndrome, scar tissue, swollen blood vessels, infections, or a tumor. Also, inflammation or swelling of the spinal cord or brain can put pressure on one or more nerves.
Damage to the skin through a rash, inflammation, or injury is another reason for numbness or tingling. Conditions that can cause this type of damage include frostbite and herpes (a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus).
As a symptom, certain diseases generate numbness or tingling. Examples of these diseases include:
- an insect or animal bite
- toxins found in shellfish
- abnormal level of vitamin B-12, potassium, calcium, or sodium
- radiation therapy
- medications, especially chemotherapy
Central nervous system disorders that may cause numbness and tingling include:
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (Mini Stroke)
- Hardening of the Arteries
- An Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's thyroiditis)
Some other conditions that affect specific parts of the body can cause numbness and tingling. Body parts include:
- Stroke: Sudden numbness, especially on one side of the body, in the arm, leg, or face. It is an early symptom of a stroke.
- Mini stroke: Transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes, can cause numbness and droop on one side of the face.
- Encephalitis: Swelling in the brain and spinal cord can lead to loss of feeling in parts of the body or partial paralysis in the arms or legs in extreme cases.
- Transverse myelitis: Inflammation in the spinal cord can cause a band sensation in the torso, and weakness in the legs and sometimes the arms.
- Back and neck damage: Injuries to the back and neck can cause damage or compression to the nerves, resulting in numbness and tingling.
Feet and legs:
People with diabetes can experience diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage. It can occur over time as the metabolic effects of diabetes on the bloodstream damage the nerves.
One-third to one-half of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy, a form that usually causes numbness and pain in the feet and legs, or less often, in the hands and arms.
Hands and feet:
Due to low red blood cell levels and decreased circulation of oxygen, vitamin B12 deficiency, or pernicious anemia, may cause nerve damage. This can cause peripheral neuropathy.
Alcoholic liver damage can cause peripheral neuropathy, which affects the hands and feet.
A variety of medications can also cause peripheral neuropathy, such as:
- medications for blood pressure or heart
- chemotherapy and anticancer drugs
- HIV and AIDS medications
- anti-alcohol medications
- skin medications
- medicine to fight infections
- Calcium is vital for proper nerve function and blood flow. Hypocalcemia or calcium deficiency can cause numbness and tingle in the fingers.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome in the hands and fingers may also cause numbness, tingling, and pain.
- It occurs when the median nerve, one of the main nerves in the arm, is compressed in the space where it travels through the wrist.
Panic attacks, or sudden, overwhelming periods of fear and anxiety with no real danger, can cause a variety of symptoms, including numbness or tingling in the hands.
Toothaches and infections can compress the facial nerves and cause numbness in the face and mouth.
A doctor will review the medical history of a person, conduct a physical exam, and ask questions about symptoms to diagnose the cause of numbness and tingling. Be sure to report all symptoms, even if they don't appear to be related, and any previously diagnosed conditions. Be aware of any recent injuries, infections, or vaccinations. Your doctor will also need to know about any prescription or over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking.
Depending on the results of a physical exam, your doctor may order additional tests. These may include blood tests, electrolyte level tests, thyroid function tests, toxicology tests, vitamin level tests, and nerve conduction studies. Your doctor may also order a lumbar puncture (lumbar puncture).
More imaging and blood tests may be needed to make a diagnosis. These include MRIs or CT scans to better visualize the brain and detect a stroke or tumor. Blood tests that a doctor may order include:
- complete blood count (CBC)
- electrolyte panel
- kidney function test
- glucose measurement
- vitamin B-12 level test
- thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test
Treatment for numbness and tingling depends on the reason for your symptom and will focus on resolving any underlying medical conditions.
If numbness is in a person's feet and affects their ability to walk, it can help avoid more injury and harm to the feet by wearing well-fitting socks and shoes, particularly while at home.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)-related numbness is usually relatively harmless and painless. Niacin, a B-complex vitamin, can help reduce inflammation and related numbness.
In cases of severe or painful numbness, treatment may include a short round of corticosteroids, which also speeds recovery by reducing inflammation.
Various medications designed to treat different conditions can also help reduce the numbness and tingling associated with MS, such as:
- amitriptyline, imipramine, and nortriptyline
Several treatment plans can help reduce or control non-MS-related numbness and tingling, such as:
- Meningitis: Antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids.
- Diabetic neuropathy: Physical activity, healthy diet, following diabetes treatment plans, daily monitoring of changes in the feet, and regular foot exams.
- Carpal tunnel: Wrist bands, over-the-counter pain relievers, nerve gliding exercises, or surgery. Avoid triggering activities.
- Pernicious anemia: Vitamin B12 injections, pills, nasal gels, or sprays.
When to visit a Doctor?
Everyone experiences numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation at times. You probably felt it when you stood up after sitting in one position for a long time. It is usually resolved in minutes.
However, see your doctor if the numbness and tingling are persistent or occur without an obvious cause, or accompany any of the following symptoms:
People who experience numbness and tingling, such signs may need emergency medical attention. These signs include:
- vision problems
- muscle weakness and cramps
- bladder and bowel problems
- intense anxiety
- back or neck pain
- reduced appetite
- signs may occur on one side of the body
- confusion, slurred speech, or trouble speaking
- chest pain
- severe headache
- sudden fever
- nausea and vomiting
- stiff neck
- sensitivity to light
- pale or yellowish skin
- irregular heartbeat
Home remedies that can help relieve uncomfortable numbness include:
- many of the conditions that cause numbness in the legs and feet, such as nerve pressure, improve with rest.
- eat a low fat, high-fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- limit salt (sodium) intake
- maintain healthy body weight and body mass index (BMI)
- perform 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week
- limit alcohol intake and quit smoking
- wash your hands daily with soap and water
- avoid sharing food or other objects with people potentially exposed to infectious conditions
- keep up with vaccinations
- avoid exposure to radiation
- limit repetitive hand or wrist movements
- eat foods rich in vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium or take supplements
- treat back pain early and limit activities that make the pain worse
- receive psychotherapy
- stress management
Frequently Asked Questions:
Numbness and tingling can be caused by other medical conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on a nerve in the wrist) Diabetes.
Other signs and symptoms of poor sleep include tingling sensations in the body, disorganized thinking, and much more.
These feelings can be felt by people who are emotionally stressed and drink a lot of caffeinated beverages. It is more likely that people with MS will experience very small spasms called myokymia, which mostly occur in the area of the facial nerve.
The relationship between numbness, tingling, and shooting/burning pain in patients with chemotherapy - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00520-011-1141-9
Numbness and Tingling of Fingers Associated with Parvovirus B19 Infection - https://academic.oup.com/jid/article-abstract/161/2/354/898884
Prevalence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a General Population - https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/774263