Hypoesthesia is the medical term for partial or total loss of sensation in a part of your body.
You may not feel:
It’s commonly called “numbness.”
Sometimes hypoesthesia indicates a serious underlying condition such as diabetes or nerve damage. But often the cause, such as sitting too long with your legs crossed, isn’t serious.
If your hypoesthesia is persistent, or if you have additional symptoms, see your healthcare provider to find out what’s causing it.
Keep reading to learn about some of the many underlying causes of hypoesthesia and how to treat it.
Hypoesthesia is total or partial loss of sensation in a part of your body. Sometimes it’s accompanied by a pins-and-needles tingling.
In addition to losing a sense of pain, temperature, and touch, you may not feel the position of the numb part of your body.
In general, hypoesthesia results from an injury or irritation of a nerve or nerves. The damage can result from:
- trauma from a blow or fall
- metabolic abnormalities, such as diabetes
- compression that causes swelling
- pressure on a nerve, from repetitive movements, or during surgery, or from a tumor
- infection, such as from HIV or Lyme disease
- some local anesthetics in dental procedures
- some drugs or toxins
- hereditary nerve disorders
- reduced blood flow to nerves
- a needle injection around the nerve
Seek emergency medical care if your numbness comes on suddenly or you have any other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing.
The word hypoesthesia comes from the Latin word for below, hypo, and the Greek word for sensation, aisthēsis. It’s also spelled hypesthesia.
A wide range of conditions can result in hypoesthesia in a part of your body. Here we’ll cover some of the causes, including both common and rare causes.
Numbness, especially in your feet, can be an indicator of diabetic neuropathy.
If you have diabetes and your blood sugar isn’t managed, it can cause hypoesthesia in your:
Numbness in your feet can cause you to lose balance or injure your feet without feeling the damage. It’s important to manage your diabetes so that you don’t injure your nerves and other organs.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Numbness is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. MS is thought to result from damage to the myelin sheath that protects your nerve fibers.
Numbness in your arms, legs, or one side of your face may be an early symptom of MS.
Arthritis is joint inflammation, but some types of arthritis can put pressure on nerves in your hands and wrists causing numbness and stiffness.
Neck arthritis (cervical spondylosis)
Cervical spondylosis is a common condition that results from the gradual degeneration of cartilage and bone in your neck. It may cause numbness in the shoulders and arms.
Almost 9 out of 10 people have some degree of cervical spondylosis by age 60, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But not all of them are aware of symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve on the palm is compressed in the region where it travels through your wrist.
This is the nerve that supplies sensation to your fingers and thumb. Your hand may feel numb and painful.
Damage to the median nerve can result from:
- repeated movement of your wrist
- poor positioning of your wrists at a keyboard
- longtime use of tools that cause vibration, such as a jackhammer
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also associated with some medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension).
Cubital tunnel syndrome and ulnar tunnel syndrome
Extra pressure on the ulnar nerve that travels from your neck to your wrist may result in hypoesthesia. This is usually the result of repetitive arm or hand movement.
When the nerve is compressed near your elbow, it’s known as cubital tunnel syndrome. When the nerve is compressed near your wrist, it’s known as ulnar tunnel syndrome.
Raynaud’s phenomenon involves a restricted blood flow to your fingers, toes, ears, or nose. When your blood vessels constrict, your extremities may turn white and cold, and they may lose feeling.
There are two types of Raynaud’s:
Primary is when you have Raynaud’s on its own.
Secondary Raynaud’s is when it’s associated with other conditions, such as:
Meralgia paresthetica is a condition that causes numbness and tingling in your outer thigh. It results from compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve that supplies sensation to the outer thigh surface.
It’s also called Bernhardt-Roth syndrome.
It may be caused by:
- wearing tight clothes
- standing for long periods
A ganglion cyst is a bump on a tendon or joint under your skin. It’s filled with fluid and usually located on your hand or wrist. It’s a common and noncancerous cyst. If it’s near a nerve, it can cause numbness.
Tumors that put pressure on nerves can cause hypoesthesia in the affected area.
- Tumors affecting your cranial nerves can cause your face to be numb.
- Tumors affecting the spinal cord can cause numbness in your arms and legs.
- Tumors in the cerebral cortex can cause hypoesthesia on one side of your body.
Less common causes
Drug side effects
Some medications may cause hypoesthesia in a part of your body. Examples can include:
- heart and blood pressure drugs such Amiodarone
- cancer medications such as Cisplatin
- HIV drugs
- infection-fighting drugs such as, Metronidazole, Flagyl®, Fluoroquinolones: Cipro®, Levaquin®
- anticonvulsants such as Phenytoin (Dilantin®)
- some anesthetics
Dental procedures requiring anesthesia may sometimes produce numbness as a side effect.
Injury to the inferior alveolar nerve during extraction of wisdom teeth is reported to occur in up to 8.4 percent of cases. Most of the time, the resulting numbness is reversible.
Nerve damage and resulting numbness may be due to the needle injection or to the anesthetic. In some cases, the type of local anesthetic used may cause hypoesthesia.
Decompression sickness occurs when the pressure surrounding your body rapidly decreases. This causes air bubbles to form in your blood that damage blood vessels and nerves.
Decompression sickness can affect:
- deep-sea divers
- high-altitude hikers
- astronauts who change pressure environments too quickly
It’s important to get medical help as soon as possible if and when you suspect decompression sickness.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can cause numbness in your feet.
Hypoesthesia can be the result of magnesium deficiency.
Calcium deficiency can cause hypoesthesia. It can also cause tingling in your hands, feet, and face.
Some insect bites may cause numbness and tingling in the area of the bite.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is an inherited nerve disorder of the peripheral nervous system. Its symptoms primarily affect your legs and feet. Symptoms usually appear in the teenage years.
Thoracic outlet syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome causes hypoesthesia in your arms and fingers. It results from compression or injury to the nerves or blood vessels in your neck and upper chest.
The thoracic outlet is the area between your collarbone and first rib.
An acoustic neuroma is a rare, benign brain tumor that may cause pressure on cranial nerves.
Surgery side effect
Hypoesthesia is reported as an uncommon side effect in certain kinds of surgery, including:
- clavicle plate placement
tissue grafts in the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament
- arthroscopic shoulder surgery
limb amputation(in the residual limb)
MMR vaccine reaction
Of the adverse effects adults who had the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine from 2003 to 2013 reported, 19 percent were hypoesthesia. The number of people with adverse effects was very small.
The causes of hypoesthesia are so wide ranging, that it’s difficult to specify at-risk populations.
Here are some general conditions that may involve greater risk:
- If you have diabetes or arthritis or some other conditions, you have an increased risk for hypoesthesia.
- If you’re taking any of the drugs mentioned above, you have an increased risk for hypoesthesia.
- If your work or other activities involve repetitive actions, you have an increased risk for nerve compression that results in hypoesthesia.
- If you’re facing challenges to access a well-balanced diet or you’re not getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals, you have a higher risk for hypoesthesia.
The treatment for hypoesthesia depends on the underlying condition causing the numbness. Some conditions may be more difficult to diagnose and treat.
Here are possible treatments for some conditions:
- Drugs you’re taking. Your healthcare provider can lower the dose or prescribe another medication.
- Vitamin deficiency. Your healthcare provider will likely suggest a change in diet and the addition of supplements.
- Diabetes. Try to take steps to better manage your blood sugar and take care of your feet by wearing comfortable and supportive shoes. Your healthcare provider may prescribe physical therapy to help with your balance and gait.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a stretching routine, other exercises, and a special splint. In some cases, surgery may relieve the symptoms.
- Some nerve injuries. Oral steroids may help repair the nerve. Steroids are used effectively with facial, optic, and spinal cord nerve injury.
In other cases, the effects of hypoesthesia can be lessened with exercise or physical therapy.
Hypoesthesia is a decrease in your normal sensations such as touch or temperature, while paresthesia refers to having abnormal sensations.
Usually paresthesia is described as a feeling of pins and needles or tingling. It can also refer to a feeling of buzzing or pricking on the skin.
Paresthesia comes from the Greek words for beside or abnormal, pará, and sensation, aisthēsis.
Hypoesthesia can result from a wide range of causes, from benign to serious.
If you have sudden numbness or numbness with other symptoms, seek medical care as soon as possible. You should also see your healthcare provider if your hypoesthesia becomes chronic.
A variety of treatments exist. Your healthcare provider can help you create the right treatment plan based on the type of nerve damage causing the hypoesthesia.