Numbness in your hands is not always a 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 contact your doctor, as well as treatments for the underlying causes.

1. Stroke

Numbness in your hands usually is not a sign of an emergency.

Although unlikely, it’s possible that hand numbness could be a sign of a stroke. A stroke is brain damage caused by decreased blood supply to a region of your brain.

Hand numbness can be the only sign of a stroke, or it can occur with other symptoms. Prompt treatment may reduce your risk for long-term brain damage. It may even save your life.

Medical emergency

Call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest emergency room if you experience:

  • 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

2. Carpal tunnel

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 your thumb, index, middle, and part of your 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.

If the condition persists, it can cause permanent nerve damage. Sometimes surgery is necessary to relieve the pressure.

3. Vitamin or mineral deficiency

You need vitamin B12 to keep your nerves healthy. Severe B12 deficiency can cause numbness in your hands and feet on both sides of your body.

Potassium and magnesium deficiency may also cause numbness.

The most common symptom of a vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue. Other symptoms may include:

  • weakness
  • trouble walking and balancing
  • difficulty thinking clearly
  • seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)

4. Certain medications

Nerve damage (neuropathy) can be a side effect of several different medications, especially those that treat cancer. It can affect both your hands and feet.

Some of the medications that can cause numbness include:

  • Antibiotics. These include metronidazole (Flagyl), nitrofurantoin (Macrobid), and fluoroquinolones (Cipro).
  • Anticancer drugs. Cisplatin and vincristine are examples.
  • 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:

  • decreased sensation
  • tingling
  • atypical feelings in your hands
  • weakness

5. Slipped cervical disc

Discs are the soft cushions that separate the bones (vertebrae) of your spine. A disruption in the structure of your spinal column may cause movement of the disk. This is called a herniated, or slipped, disc.

Swelling around the nerve, a damaged disc, or degeneration of the bones of your spine can put pressure on and irritate the nerves of your spine. In addition to numbness, a slipped disc can cause weakness or pain in your arm or leg.

6. Raynaud’s disease

Also called Raynaud’s phenomenon, this vascular condition affects some people who are predisposed to it.

The symptoms occur when your blood vessels narrow, reducing the amount of blood reaching your hands and feet. The decreased blood flow makes your fingers and toes become numb, cold, pale, and painful.

These symptoms typically appear from cold exposure or stress.

7. Cubital tunnel syndrome

The ulnar nerve runs from your neck to your hand on the pinky side. The nerve can become compressed or overstretched at the inner aspect of your elbow. This can happen after prolonged positions put pressure on your elbow or due to swelling from repetitive movement.

Doctors refer to this condition as cubital tunnel syndrome. This is the same nerve area you may affect when you hit your “funny bone.”

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

8. Cervical spondylosis

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

Most people with cervical spondylosis do not have any symptoms. Others may feel pain and stiffness in their neck.

This condition can progress and may also cause:

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

9. Lupus

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

  • joints
  • heart
  • kidneys
  • lungs

Symptoms of lupus come and go. Which symptoms you have depends 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 your 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

10. Ganglion cyst

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 in diameter and they usually look like a lump on your hand.

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

11. Diabetes

If you are living with diabetes, your body will have trouble moving sugar from your bloodstream into your 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 peripheral neuropathy include:

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

12. Thyroid disorder

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 also cause peripheral neuropathy. It can cause numbness, weakness, and tingling in your hands and feet.

13. Alcohol-related neuropathy

Alcohol is safe to drink in small amounts, but too much can damage some tissues, including your nerves. Drinking large amounts of alcohol or drinking while having conditions such as kidney or liver disease could lead to numbness and tingling in your 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

14. Fibromyalgia

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 your body.

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

Other symptoms include:

15. Lyme disease

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

16. Epicondylitis

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 your forearm, causing pain and burning on the outside of your elbow. This is very unlikely to cause any numbness in your 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 your pinky and ring fingers. It may lead to numbness if there’s significant swelling around this area that’s causing dysfunction in the ulnar nerve. But this is very rare.

17. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where your 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 symptoms. Your arms, face, or legs may lose feeling. The numbness is usually only on one side of your 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

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

18. Myofascial pain syndrome

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

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

19. Stage 4 HIV

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. Without treatment, the virus could destroy immune cells, leaving your body vulnerable to infections. Stage 4 of this virus is called AIDS.

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

Other symptoms of stage 4 HIV include:

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

Though there is currently no cure for HIV, antiretroviral therapy and medical care allow people who have the virus to live nearly the same as people who do not have it.

20. Amyloidosis

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

The disease can impact your nervous system and cause numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.

Other symptoms include:

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

21. Thoracic outlet syndrome

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

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

Other symptoms include:

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

22. Vasculitis

Vasculitis is a group of rare diseases that can cause your blood vessels to become inflamed, which affects blood flow to organs and tissues. It can lead to problems like numbness.

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 demyelinating condition in which your immune system attacks and damages your nerves. It often starts after a viral or bacterial illness.

The nerve impairment causes numbness, weakness, and tingling that starts in your legs. It spreads to your 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 does not go away within a few hours or spreads to other parts of your body, contact a doctor. You should also speak with a doctor if the numbness started after an injury or illness.

Medical emergency

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

Because there are so many possible causes of numbness in your hands, doctors might need to do more than one test to determine the underlying condition.

As a starting point, your doctor may use simple, noninvasive methods, such as asking about your history of symptoms and doing a physical exam.

Other diagnostic tests could include:

While hand numbness may be the first or only symptom you notice, it’s the underlying condition that needs to be treated. Many of the causes of numbness in your hands may have similar treatments.

Medications

Most symptoms of hand numbness can be treated at least in part with medication. Not all medications will be used for all conditions, so consult with a doctor before taking any medications.

Medications that treat symptoms of hand numbness

Medications that treat specific causes of hand numbness in addition to symptoms

Physical activity

After medication, some conditions may benefit from physical therapy. You may want to avoid prolonged positions that cause swelling or pressure as well as harmful movements, such as improper form, which can cause tennis elbow.

Diet

Dietary changes might be used to treat conditions causing hand numbness. This could mean making sure you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, or it could involve taking supplements.

Changes to your diet might also mean eliminating your intake of certain substances. This could include reducing alcohol and smoking.

Surgery

Surgery is rarely the first treatment, but sometimes it might be needed. Surgeries vary widely based on the underlying condition. This might include:

  • carpal tunnel surgery, which is fairly common and considered low risk
  • cervical spine surgery, which requires a more substantial recovery period and might not be considered safe for people who have serious heart problems
  • surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

Other treatments

Because there are many potential underlying causes of hand numbness, other possible treatments are available. Depending on the condition, you might encounter other treatments such as:

There are a lot of reasons you might feel numbness in your hands, and they’re not all causes for alarm.

In some cases, a doctor will diagnose an underlying condition. After the cause of hand numbness is determined, a targeted treatment plan can help alleviate your symptoms.

If you experience any hand numbness, it’s best to speak with a doctor or seek other medical attention.