Numbness and tinglingSensory loss; Paresthesias; Tingling and numbness; Loss of sensation; Pins and needles sensation
Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body, but they are often felt in your fingers, hands, feet, arms, or legs.
There are many possible causes of numbness and tingling, including:
- Sitting or standing in the same position for a long time
- Injuring a nerve (a neck injury may cause you to feel numbness anywhere along your arm or hand, while a low back injury can cause numbness or tingling down the back of your leg)
- Pressure on the nerves of the spine, such as from a herniated disk
A herniated (slipped) disk occurs when all or part of a disk is forced through a weakened part of the disk. This may place pressure on nearby nerves...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Pressure on peripheral nerves from enlarged blood vessels, tumors, scar tissue, or infection
- Shingles or herpes zoster infection
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering skin rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the herpes family of viruses. ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Other infections such as HIV/AIDS, leprosy, syphilis, or tuberculosis
- Lack of blood supply to an area, such as from hardening of the arteries, frostbite, or vessel inflammation
Hardening of the arteries
Atherosclerosis, sometimes called "hardening of the arteries," occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries. ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Frostbite is damage to the skin and underlying tissues caused by extreme cold. Frostbite is the most common freezing injury.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium in your body
- Deficiency of B vitamins such as B1, B6, B12, or folic acid
- Use of certain medicines
- Use of certain illicit street drugs
- Nerve damage due to lead, alcohol, or tobacco, or from chemotherapy drugs
- Radiation therapy
- Animal bites
- Insect, tick, mite, and spider bites
- Seafood toxins
- Congenital conditions that affect the nerves
Numbness and tingling can be caused by other medical conditions, including:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on a nerve at the wrist)
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is excessive pressure on the median nerve. This is the nerve in the wrist that allows feeling a...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Diabetes is a long-term (chronic) disease in which the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
A migraine is a type of headache. It may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. In most people, a throbbi...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).Read Article Now Book Mark Article
A seizure is the physical changes in behavior that occurs during an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The term "seizure" is often...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack. " If blood flow is cut off for longer th...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a "mini-stroke"
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a brief time. A person will have stroke-like symptoms for ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Underactive thyroid
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. This condition is often called underactive thyroid....Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Raynaud phenomenon (narrowing of the blood vessels, usually in the hands and feet)
Raynaud phenomenon is a condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms. This blocks blood flow to the fingers, to...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Your health care provider should find and treat the cause of your numbness or tingling. Treating the condition may make the symptoms go away or stop them from getting worse. For example, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or low back pain, your doctor may recommend certain exercises.
If you have diabetes, your provider will discuss ways to control your blood sugar level.
Low levels of vitamins will be treated with vitamin supplements.
Medicines that cause numbness or tingling may need to be switched or changed. DO NOT change or stop taking any of your medicines or take large doses of any vitamins or supplements until you have talked with your provider.
Because numbness can cause a decrease in feeling, you may be more likely to accidentally injure a numb hand or foot. Take care to protect the area from cuts, bumps, bruises, burns, or other injuries. If you have chronic numbness of the feet (such as from diabetes), seeing a podiatrist regularly can help prevent complications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Go to a hospital or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if:
- You have weakness or are unable to move, along with numbness or tingling
- Numbness or tingling occur just after a head, neck, or back injury
- You cannot control the movement of an arm or a leg, or you have lost bladder or bowel control
- You are confused or have lost consciousness, even briefly
- You have slurred speech, a change in vision, difficulty walking, or weakness
Call your provider if:
- Numbness or tingling has no obvious cause (like a hand or foot "falling asleep")
- You have pain in your neck, forearm, or fingers
- You are urinating more often
- Numbness or tingling is in your legs and gets worse when you walk
- You have a rash
- You have dizziness, muscle spasm, or other unusual symptoms
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination, carefully checking your nervous system.
You will be asked about your symptoms. Questions may include when the problem began, its location, or if there's anything that improves or worsens the symptoms.
Your provider may also ask questions to determine your risk for stroke, thyroid disease, or diabetes, as well as questions about your work habits and medicines.
Blood tests that may be ordered include:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
Complete blood count (CBC)
A complete blood count (CBC) test measures the following:The number of white blood cells (WBC count)The number of red blood cells (RBC count)The numb...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Electrolyte level (measurement of body chemicals and minerals) and liver function tests
- Thyroid function tests
Thyroid function tests
Thyroid function tests are used to check whether your thyroid is working normally. The most common thyroid function tests are:Free T4 (the main thyro...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Measurement of vitamin levels, particularly vitamin B12
- Heavy metal or toxicology screening
- Sedimentation rate
ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate. It is commonly called a "sed rate. "It is a test that indirectly measures the level of certain protei...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- C-reactive protein
C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced by the liver. The level of CRP rises when there is inflammation throughout the body. It is one of a group of p...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Imaging tests may include:
- Angiogram (a test that uses x-rays and a special dye to see inside the blood vessels)
An arteriogram is an imaging test that uses x-rays and a special dye to see inside the arteries. It can be used to view arteries in the heart, brain...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- CT angiogram
- CT scan of the head
CT scan of the head
A head computed tomography (CT) scan uses many x-rays to create pictures of the head, including the skull, brain, eye sockets, and sinuses.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- CT scan of the spine
CT scan of the spine
A lumbosacral spine CT is a computed tomography scan of the lower spine and surrounding tissues.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- MRI of the head
MRI of the head
A head MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the brain and surrounding...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- MRI of the spine
- Ultrasound of neck vessels to determine your risk for TIA or stroke
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside the body.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Vascular ultrasound
A duplex ultrasound is a test to see how blood moves through your arteries and veins.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- X-ray of the affected area
Other tests that may be done include:
- Electromyography and nerve conduction studies to measure how your muscles respond to nerve stimulation
Electromyography (EMG) is a test that checks the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to rule out central nervous system disorders
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. CSF acts as a cushion, protecting the b...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Cold stimulation test may be done to check for Raynaud phenomenon
- Genetic testing for nerve problems that run in families.
McGee S. Examination of the sensory system. In: McGee S, ed. Evidence-Based Physical Diagnosis. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 62.
Snow DC, Bunney BE. Peripheral nerve disorders. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 97.
Swartz MH. The nervous system. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 21.
Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system - illustration
The central nervous system comprises the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.
Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system
Review Date: 5/4/2021
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.