Is this cause for concern?

Numbness in your hands isn’t always cause for concern. It could be a sign of carpal tunnel or a medication side effect.

When a medical condition causes numbness in your hands, you’ll usually have other symptoms along with it. Here’s what to watch for and when to see your doctor.

Numbness in your hands usually isn’t a sign of an emergency that requires a trip to the hospital.

Although it’s unlikely, it’s possible that hand numbness could be a sign of a stroke. Seek immediate medical attention if you’re also experiencing any of the following:

  • sudden weakness or numbness in your arm or leg, especially if it’s only on one side of your body
  • trouble speaking or understanding others
  • confusion
  • drooping of your face
  • sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • sudden dizziness or loss of balance
  • sudden severe headache

If you have these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency services or have someone drive you to the emergency room right away. Prompt treatment may reduce your risk for long-term damage. It may even save your life.

You need vitamin B-12 to keep your nerves healthy. Deficiency can cause numbness or tingling in both your hands and feet.

Potassium and magnesium deficiency may also cause numbness.

Other symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency include:

  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • trouble walking and balancing
  • difficulty thinking straight
  • hallucinations

Nerve damage (neuropathy) can be a side effect of drugs that treat everything from cancer to seizures. It can affect both your hands and feet.

Some of the drugs that can cause numbness include:

  • Antibiotics. These include metronidazole (Flagyl), nitrofurantoin (Macrobid), and fluoroquinolones (Cipro).
  • Anticancer drugs. These include cisplatin and vincristine.
  • Antiseizure drugs. An example is phenytoin (Dilantin).
  • Heart or blood pressure drugs. These include amiodarone (Nexterone) and hydralazine (Apresoline).

Other symptoms of drug-induced nerve damage include:

  • tingling
  • abnormal feelings in your hands
  • weakness

Discs are the soft cushions that separate the bones (vertebrae) of your spine. A tear in a disc lets the soft material in the middle squeeze out. This rupture is called a herniated, or slipped, disc.

The damaged disc can put pressure on and irritate nerves of your spine. In addition to numbness, a slipped disc can cause weakness or pain in your arm or leg.

Raynaud’s disease, or Raynaud’s phenomenon, occurs when your blood vessels narrow, preventing enough blood from reaching your hands and feet. The lack of blood flow makes your fingers and toes turn numb, cold, pale, and very painful.

These symptoms typically appear when you’re exposed to cold, or when you feel stressed.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway that runs through the center of your wrist. In the center of this tunnel is the median nerve. This nerve supplies feeling to your fingers, including the thumb, index, middle, and part of the ring finger.

Repetitive activities like typing or working on an assembly line can cause the tissues around the median nerve to swell up and put pressure on this nerve. The pressure can cause numbness along with tingling, pain, and weakness in the affected hand.

The ulnar nerve is a nerve that runs from the neck to the hand on the pinkie side. The nerve can become compressed or overstretched at the inner aspect of the elbow. Doctors refer to this condition as cubital tunnel syndrome. This is the same nerve area you may hit when you hit your “funny bone.”

Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause symptoms such as hand numbness and tingling, especially in the ring and pinkie fingers. A person may also experience forearm pain and weakness in the hand, especially when they bend their elbow.

Cervical spondylosis is a type of arthritis that affects discs in your neck. It’s caused by years of wear and tear on the spinal bones. The damaged vertebrae can press on nearby nerves, causing numbness in the hands, arms, and fingers.

Most people with cervical spondylosis don’t have any symptoms. Others may feel pain and stiffness in their neck.

This condition may also cause:

  • weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • headaches
  • a popping noise when you move your neck
  • loss of balance and coordination
  • muscle spasms in the neck or shoulders
  • loss of control over your bowels or bladder

Lateral epicondylitis is called “tennis elbow” because it’s caused by a repetitive motion, like swinging a tennis racket. The repeated motion damages muscles and tendons in the forearm, causing pain and burning on the outside of your elbow. This is very unlikely to cause any numbness in the hands.

Medial epicondylitis is a similar condition nicknamed “golfer’s elbow.” It causes pain on the inside of your elbow as well as possible weakness, numbness, or tingling in your hands, especially in the pinkie and ring fingers. It may cause numbness if there is significant swelling about this area causing dysfunction in the ulnar nerve, but this is very rare.

Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled growths. They form on tendons or joints in your wrists or hands. They can grow to an inch or more across.

If these cysts press on a nearby nerve, they can cause numbness, pain, or weakness in your hand.

In people living with diabetes, the body has trouble moving sugar from the bloodstream into cells. Having high blood sugar for a long period of time can lead to nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is the type of nerve damage that causes numbness in your arms, hands, legs, and feet.

Other symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • burning
  • pins-and-needles feeling
  • weakness
  • pain
  • loss of balance

The thyroid gland in your neck produces hormones that help regulate your body’s metabolism. An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, happens when your thyroid produces too little of its hormones.

Untreated hypothyroidism can eventually damage nerves that send feeling to your arms and legs. This is called peripheral neuropathy. It can cause numbness, weakness, and tingling in your hands and feet.

Alcohol is safe to drink in small amounts, but too much of it can damage tissues around the body, including the nerves. People who misuse alcohol sometimes develop numbness and tingling in their hands and feet.

Other symptoms of alcohol-related neuropathy include:

  • a pins-and-needles feeling
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle cramps or spasms
  • trouble controlling urination
  • erectile dysfunction

Myofascial pain syndrome develops trigger points, which are very sensitive and painful areas on the muscles. The pain sometimes spreads to other parts of the body.

In addition to muscle pain, myofascial pain syndrome causes tingling, weakness, and stiffness.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes fatigue and muscle pain. It’s sometimes confused with chronic fatigue syndrome because the symptoms are so similar. The fatigue with fibromyalgia can be intense. The pain is centered in various tender points around the body.

People with fibromyalgia may also have numbness and tingling in their hands, arms, feet, legs, and face.

Other symptoms include:

  • depression
  • trouble concentrating
  • sleep problems
  • headaches
  • belly pain
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

Deer ticks infected with bacteria can transmit Lyme disease to humans through a bite. People who contract the bacteria that cause Lyme disease first develop a rash shaped like a bull’s-eye and flu-like symptoms, such as fever and chills.

Later symptoms of this disease include:

  • numbness in the arms or legs
  • joint pain and swelling
  • temporary paralysis on one side of the face
  • fever, stiff neck, and severe headache
  • weakness
  • trouble moving muscles

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means your body attacks your own organs and tissues. It causes inflammation in many organs and tissues, including the:

  • joints
  • heart
  • kidneys
  • lungs

Symptoms of lupus come and go. Which symptoms you have depend on which parts of your body are affected.

Pressure from inflammation can damage nerves and lead to numbness or tingling in your hands. Other common symptoms include:

  • a butterfly-shaped rash on the face
  • fatigue
  • joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
  • sun sensitivity
  • fingers and toes that turn cold and blue (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • confusion
  • trouble concentrating
  • vision problems

Although it’s unlikely, hand numbness could be a sign of one of the following conditions. See your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any associated symptoms.

18. Stage 4 HIV

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. Without proper treatment, it can eventually destroy so many immune cells that your body can no longer protect itself against infections. Stage 4 of this virus is called AIDS.

HIV and AIDS damage nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This nerve damage can cause people to lose feeling in their arms and legs.

Other symptoms stage 4 HIV include:

  • confusion
  • weakness
  • headaches
  • forgetfulness
  • trouble swallowing
  • loss of coordination
  • vision loss
  • difficulty walking

HIV is a lifelong condition that currently doesn’t have a cure. However, with antiretroviral therapy and medical care, HIV can be well-controlled and life expectancy can be nearly the same as someone who has not contracted HIV.

19. Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is a rare disease that starts when an abnormal protein called amyloid builds up in your organs. Which symptoms you have depend on the organs that are affected.

When this disease affects the nervous system, it can cause numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.

Other symptoms include:

  • pain and swelling in the belly
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • swollen tongue
  • swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck
  • tiredness
  • unexplained weight loss

20. Multiple sclerosis (MS)

MS is an autoimmune disease. In people with MS, the immune system attacks the protective coating around nerve fibers. Over time, the nerves become damaged.

Symptoms depend on which nerves are affected. Numbness and tingling are among the most common MS symptoms. The arms, face, or legs can lose feeling. The numbness is usually only on one side of the body.

Other symptoms include:

  • vision loss
  • double vision
  • tingling
  • weakness
  • electric-shock sensations
  • trouble with coordination or walking
  • slurred speech
  • tiredness
  • loss of control over your bladder or bowels

21. Thoracic outlet syndrome

This group of conditions develops from pressure on blood vessels or nerves in your neck and the top part of your chest. An injury or repetitive movements can cause this nerve compression.

Pressure on nerves in this region leads to numbness and tingling in the fingers and pain in the shoulders and neck.

Other symptoms include:

  • a weak hand grip
  • arm swelling
  • blue or pale color in your hand and fingers
  • cold fingers, hands, or arms

22. Vasculitis

Vasculitis is a group of rare diseases that make the blood vessels swell up and become inflamed. This inflammation slows blood flow to your organs and tissues. It can lead to nerve problems like numbness and weakness.

Other symptoms include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • red-spotted rash
  • body aches
  • shortness of breath

23. Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare condition in which the immune system attacks and damages the nerves. It often starts after a viral or bacterial illness.

The nerve damage causes numbness, weakness, and tingling that starts in the legs. It spreads to the arms, hands, and face.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble talking, chewing, or swallowing
  • trouble controlling your bladder or bowels
  • difficulty breathing
  • fast heartbeat
  • unsteady movements and walking

If the numbness doesn’t go away within a few days or spreads to other parts of your body, see your doctor. Also see your doctor if the numbness started after an injury or illness.

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any of these symptoms alongside numbness in your hands:

  • weakness
  • difficulty moving one or more parts of your body
  • confusion
  • trouble talking
  • vision loss
  • dizziness
  • sudden, severe headache