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What causes numbness? 50 possible conditions

What is Numbness and Tingling?

Numbness and tingling are unusual prickling sensations that can happen in any part of your body, but they are generally noticed in hands, feet, arms, and legs. Many things can cause the feeling of numbness and tingling, including sitting with your legs crossed or falling asleep on your arm.

If numbness and tingling persist and there’s no obvious cause for the sensations, it could be a symptom of a disease or injury, including multiple sclerosis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatment will depend on your diagnosis.

The medical term for numbness and tingling is paresthesia.

Causes of Numbness and Tingling

Many things can cause numbness and tingling, including some medications. Everyday reasons that are no cause for concern include:

  • lack of movement, for example when you sit or stand in one position for a long time
  • sitting with your legs crossed
  • falling asleep on your arm

Other conditions that can cause numbness and tingling are:

  • insect or animal bites
  • radiation therapy
  • abnormal levels of vitamin B12 or other vitamins, potassium, calcium, or sodium
  • seafood toxins
  • carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on the nerves in your wrist)
  • poor blood supply to the affected area
  • an injured nerve in your neck
  • herniated disk in your spine
  • pressure on your nerves (could be due to scar tissue, enlarged blood vessels, infection, or tumors)
  • diabetes
  • migraine headache
  • frostbite
  • shingles (a painful skin rash caused by latent varicella-zoster virus (chicken pox virus)
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (a condition which causes blood vessel spasms that block blood flow)
  • transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
  • encephalitis (inflammation and selling of the brain)
  • multiple sclerosis (an autoimmune disease that targets the brain and spinal cord)
  • underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
  • seizures
  • hardening of the arteries
  • transient ischemic attack (TIA) (a mini-stroke)
  • stroke

When to Seek Urgent Care

In some cases, feelings of numbness and tingling or burning can indicate a serious injury or medical condition. Seek urgent care if you also:

  • have just suffered a back, neck, or head injury
  • are unable to walk or move
  • lost consciousness, even if only for a short time
  • have feelings of confusion or trouble thinking clearly
  • have slurred speech
  • have visual disturbances
  • have lost bowel or bladder control
  • feel weak
  • have severe pain

Diagnosing Numbness and Tingling

Everyone experiences numbness, tingling, or burning on occasion. You probably have felt it when you stood up after sitting in one position for a long time. Usually it is resolved within minutes. You should consult with your physician if:

  • there is no obvious cause for continuing numbness and tingling
  • you have a rash
  • symptoms in your legs worsen when you walk
  • you feel dizzy
  • you have muscle spasms
  • you are urinating more frequently than usual

Expect your doctor to request a complete medical history. Be sure to report:

  • all symptoms, even if they don’t seem related
  • any previously diagnosed conditions
  • any recent injuries
  • any recent infections
  • any recent vaccinations (especially flu shots)
  • your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements

Depending on the findings of a physical exam, your doctor may order additional tests. These may include:

  • blood tests
  • electrolyte level testing
  • thyroid function testing
  • toxicology screening
  • nerve conduction studies
  • spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
  • diagnostic imaging tests (may include X-rays, angiogram, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound of the affected area)

Treatment for Numbness and Tingling

Treatment will revolve around the reason for your symptoms. Any underlying medical conditions will have to be addressed.

Complications and Precautions

If you are experiencing numbness and tingling, you may also have reduced feeling in the affected areas. Because of this, you will be less likely to feel temperature changes or pain. This means that you could touch something without realizing it’s hot enough to burn your skin. You could be cut by a sharp object without realizing it initially. Make sure you take precautions to protect yourself from burns and other accidental injuries.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.



Neuralgia is a stabbing, burning, and often quite severe pain that occurs along a damaged nerve. It has several causes, from shingles to diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

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Radiculopathy refers to disease of the spinal nerve roots. Radiculopathy produces pain , numbness, or weakness radiating from the spine.

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Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves malfunction because they're damaged or destroyed. You'll notice a tingling, numbness, or weakness, and possibly sweating, constipation, or diarrhea.

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Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve as it passes into the hand. The median nerve is located on the palm side of your hand.

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Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of types 1 and 2 diabetes due to uncontrolled high blood sugar levels that result in damage to the nerves. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), between 6...

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Mini Stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

During a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini stroke) blood stops flowing to the brain for a short period of time. TIA doesn't kill brain cells like a stroke does. TIA causes symptoms that mimic those of a stroke.

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Spinal Cord Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A spinal cord injury, or damage to the spinal cord, is an extremely serious type of physical trauma. It will likely have a lasting and significant impact on most aspects of daily life. According to the Nationa...

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Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis, also known as cervical osteoarthritis or neck arthritis, is an age-related condition that affects the joints and discs in your neck.

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Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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Ulnar Nerve Palsy (Dysfunction)

Damage to the nerve that runs from your shoulder to your little finger (ulnar nerve) is known as ulnar nerve palsy. It causes sensation loss and tingling or burning in your hand.

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Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a condition chararcterized by persistent anxiety and recurrent panic attacks. Sweating or chills are possible signs of a panic attack.

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Intracerebral Hemorrhage

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is when blood suddenly bursts into brain tissue, causing damage to the brain. Symptoms usually appear suddenly during ICH.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder. An infectious disease, like the stomach flu or a lung infection, usually triggers it.

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Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal column narrows, gradually compressing the spinal cord. If the narrowing is minimal, symptoms won't occur. Too much narrowing can compress the nerves and cause problems.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A fracture is a broken bone that typically occurs when a bone is impacted by more force or pressure than it can support. In an open fracture, the ends of the broken bone tear the skin.

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Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Drinking too much alcohol, or being unable to control consumption, can indicate alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Too much alcohol in the blood or having withdrawal can lead to serious mental and physical symptoms.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Exposure of the skin to extreme or prolonged cold can result in frostbite. Lesions on the skin are one sign of extreme frostbite.

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The Truth About MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

Chinese restaurant syndrome is a group of symptoms that some people experience after eating food from a Chinese restaurant. One of the less common symptoms is swelling or pressure in the face.

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Axillary Nerve Dysfunction

Axillary nerve dysfunction (AND) or injury is also called neuropathy of the axillary nerve. It describes a loss of movement or lack of sensation in the shoulder area of the body. Stress or damage to the axillary nerve...

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Mononeuropathy is a pathological effect of a single large nerve. It can be caused by injury, nutritional deficiency, or autoimmune condition. Common symptoms are numbness, tingling, or burning.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.