What causes numbness of limbs? 32 possible conditions

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Definition

Numbness of the limbs is an abnormal sensation caused by an alteration in sensory nerve function, which may be temporary.

Alternative Names

Extremity numbness, numb extremities, numb limbs, numbness of arms and/or legs, tingling legs/feet or arms, pins and needles.

Synopsis

Sensations are carried from the extremities of the body to the brain via neurons in the spinal cord. If the blood supply to the nerves is decreased temporarily, it can produce the feeling that "my leg fell asleep". If the blood loss is permanent or severe, it is called ischemia and can result in permanent nerve damage. Nerves in the extremities can be compressed temporarily – as when carrying a heavy object and the arms feel numb. If the compression is chronic, the result can be an entrapment syndrome.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Entrapment syndromes
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Trauma
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Frostbite
  • Beriberi
  • Diabetic nerve damage
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Snake bites
  • Neuralgias
  • Rabies
  • Radiculopathy
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Toxin exposure or poisoning
  • Stroke
  • Lyme disease
  • Alcoholism
  • Malnutrition

Diagnosis and Treatments

If numbness in the limbs is persistent and accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness and pain, it requires thorough evaluation by a physician. A complete history and physical, including family history, work history, laboratory tests may be indicated. Nerve conduction velocity tests, electromyography, imaging studies and nerve biopsy may be required. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and what is determined to relieve symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications or other medications may be prescribed. Physical and occupational therapy as well as stretching exercises may also help alleviate symptoms once the underlying cause is found and treated.

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

1

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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2

Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is a pinched nerve in the spine. It occurs when surrounding bones, cartilage, muscle, or tendons deteriorate or are injured. This results in numbness, weakness, and pain.

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3

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease is a circulation disorder caused by plaque build-up in peripheral arteries. It typically affects the arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs, and organs located below the stomach.

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4

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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5

Neuralgia

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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6

Frostbite

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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7

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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8

Slipped (Herniated) Disk

The vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by disks composed of a hard outer ring with a gelatinous material inside. Injury or weakness can cause the inner portion of the disk to break through the outer portion.

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9

Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders

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

Vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders are a group of diseases in which not enough blood is supplied to the back of the brain. Symptoms depend on the cause, but may include vision and sleep problems, dizziness, and more.

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10

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 in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells of the peripheral nervous system. This leads to weakness, numbness, and tingling, and ca...

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11

Beriberi

Beriberi is a disease brought on by a Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) deficiency. There are two types of the disease: wet beriberi and dry beriberi . Wet beriberi can effect heart function and, in the most extreme cases, hear...

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12

Leprosy

Leprosy is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection. It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the lining of the nose, and the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by the bacteria Mycobacteriu...

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13

Osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is a weakening of the bones due to problems with bone formation or the bone building process. It is not the same as osteoporosis, which is a weakening of living bone that has already been formed and i...

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14

Snake Bites

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

According to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, about 5,000 snake bite cases are reported every year in the U.S.

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15

Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is usually an age-related condition that affects the joints in your neck. It develops as a result of the wear and tear of the cartilage and bones are of the cervical spine. While it is largely du...

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16

Necrotizing Vasculitis

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

Necrotizing vasculitis is the inflammation of blood vessel walls, typically small and medium-sized vessels. This inflammation can interrupt normal blood flow, resulting in damage to skin and muscle including necrosis ...

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17

Intracerebral Hemorrhage

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

An intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) occurs when blood suddenly bursts into brain tissue, causing damage to the brain, which may present symptoms similar to that of a stroke. Lobar intracerebral hemorrhages occur in th...

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18

Stroke Overview

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

A stroke is a medical emergency where part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. There are four major kinds of stroke: cerebral thrombosis, cerebral embolism, subarachnoid hemorrhage & intracerebral hemorrhage.

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19

Brain Aneurysm

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

An aneurysm in the brain is a weak area in an artery in the brain that bulges out and fills with blood. It may also be called an intracranial (skull) aneurysm or a cerebral (brain) aneurysm. A brain aneurysm is ...

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20

Mini Stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack)

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

During a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini stroke, blood stops flowing to the brain for a short period of time. However, a mini stroke doesn't kill brain cells like a stroke does. A mini strok...

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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.
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