Many Americans struggle with the odd sensation of tingling hands. But what causes it? Is it dangerous? Perhaps more importantly, what should you do about it?
Depending on how often this feeling occurs and how severe it is, tingling in hands may be the result of what is commonly known as peripheral neuropathy.
Simply put, peripheral neuropathy is the result of nerve damage.
However, not everyone whose hands tingle or feel numb has nerve damage. Here are 10 common causes of tingling hands that may or may not be related to nerve damage.
Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of tingling in hands is diabetes. This is, in fact, a result of peripheral neuropathy and sometimes compressive neuropathy. Here’s how.
In those struggling with diabetes, high blood sugar can cause serious damage to the nervous system. The excessive sorbitol sugar, damages nerve endings to the point they do not function like they once did.
Due to high blood sugar, important signals from your brain are unable to reach your hands (and sometimes your feet). This often leaves those with diabetes feeling an odd “asleep” feeling in their fingers, hands, or feet.
If you have untreated diabetes, you likely have other symptoms as well. Some may include frequent urination, sweet-smelling breathe (like fruit), or excessive thirst.
The other way diabetes can cause numbness in the fingers, is due to the increase in swelling in the carpal tunnel from edema. The edema will put pressure on the main nerve to the finger tips, and cause them to fall asleep. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome due to diabetes mellitus. Treating the underlying carpal tunnel syndrome will help alleviate the symptoms.
If your tingling hands or feet are accompanied by any of these other symptoms, it may be caused by diabetes. If you’re unsure if you are diabetic, consult your doctor right away.
The sooner you speak with a doctor, the sooner they can conduct a blood test to check for diabetes. Receiving treatment early can help slow or stop nerve damage. For the sake of more than your numb hands, it’s important to seek medical evaluation quickly.
2. Your Prescriptions
Are you on several medications? Have you recently undergone chemotherapy?
Medicines for treating things like HIV/AIDS, cancer, certain kinds of infections, even tuberculosis or high blood pressure can all lead to nerve damage. Topomax, a commonly used medication for migraines, quite often will cause numbness and tingling in the fingers.
If you’re taking prescriptions for any of these issues and are having numbness in your hands, talk to your doctor. Sometimes if it’s medically safe, discontinuation of the medication will help resolve the issues. Some nerve damage caused by these treatments can be hard to resolve.
However, quality hand doctors perform various procedures that may return feeling to your hands if serious damage has been done.
If you’re concerned that the prescriptions you’re on are leading to tinging in your hands, let your doctor know.
Sometimes a change in prescription or dosage may be all that’s needed to relieve your symptoms.
One of the less concerning potential causes for numbness in your limbs and hands may be pregnancy. Fortunately, this is typically a cause of tingling that will go away once your baby arrives.
When women become pregnant, excess fluids and that growing bundle of joy, put pressure on the body’s nerves. Typically, this type of numbness is not a cause for serious concern.
Still, it can be quite uncomfortable. Sometimes the extra pressure on women’s nerves can even lead to painful sciatica. This is often a shooting pain that runs from the back down the back of the leg.
If you’re pregnant or think you might be, nerve pressure may be causing you to experience tingling in your hands, legs, or arms.
If this is the case, there are several solutions. Your doctor may suggest wearing a wrist splint at night. This can help with wrist and hand problems.
Stretching, staying hydrated, and regular exercise have also been known to improve comfort and health during pregnancy.
Consult with your doctor to find out what kind of remedy is safest for you. Sometimes the discomfort of pregnancy may dissuade women from wanting to exercise or stretch.
If your doctor approves, this may be one of the best forms of treatment.
Regardless, the pins and needles feeling in your hands and feet should go away after delivery.
4. Vitamin Deficiency
Remember when your mother used to tell you to “take your vitamins”? She was right. They’re important for numerous health reasons, including developing healthy nerves.
Your nerves, (and other parts of your body), are especially affected by your level of vitamins B and E. A lack of these two vitamins can lead to weak nerves or other issues.
From there, you could be feeling it in your hands or other digits.
The best remedy? Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
If you’re not sure what vitamins to take, or how to adjust your diet, talk to your doctor. He or she can suggest changes to your diet to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B and E.
It may surprise you what other health benefits this can lead to in addition to tingle-free hands.
5. A Slipped Disk
Ouch! If you’ve got a slipped disk or pinched nerve, you’ll know it.
A slipped disk, a pinched nerve, or a bulging disk can all cause shooting pain in your hands or feet. When you have a bulging or slipped disk in your spine, it puts pressure on your nerves.
That pressure travels down your spine, even reaching your feet. This is a common cause of that tingling feeling in fingers or hands.
Your hand doctor may order some tests to determine if this is coming from your hand or is indeed a herniated or slipped disc in the neck that is causing tingling of the hands.
There are several tests a hand doctor might do to figure out what’s causing the slipped disk or pinched nerve, including an electomyelogram, nerve conduction velocity test, or Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the neck. In some severe cases, surgery is required. Often surgeries for these problems bring immediate relief.
Luckily, for more minor herniations, your pain and numbness may be treated with physical therapy, a brace, or at best, rest.
Infections can occur after major surgeries, injuries, or illnesses. Both viral and bacterial infections can have unfortunate effects on your nervous system.
Nerve damage caused by infection commonly leads to sharp pain in your hands or feet.
Examples of viruses that lead to infection and potentially cause numbness in hands and feet include:
- West Nile
- Lyme disease
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
and more. The last thing you want to do is to leave an infection untreated. Before severe nerve damage can occur (or other serious health problems), tell your doctor immediately if you think you may have an infection.
If an infection is a possibility, a visit to the ER may be warranted.
But not to worry, there’s still good news.
Your doctor can usually treat the infection and reduce or eliminate your symptoms. If an infection is causing your hand-numbness, it will likely go away once your infection is cleared up.
If there’s any chance you have a serious infection, call your doctor immediately.
7. An Autoimmune Disease
There is nothing fun about autoimmune diseases. They cause your immune system to attack parts of your own body. This makes finding cures and relief challenging.
The good thing is, there are treatments and help for many of them.
Some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can cause tingling in hands. If you’ve had an infection, that may trigger the tingling pain.
When it comes to pain that’s caused by an autoimmune disease, you may start to feel symptoms quickly or gradually. Your hand numbness may come and go. It may come on suddenly, or disappear for a time.
Whatever the case, consult your doctor. If you know you have an autoimmune disease, your doctor can prescribe different medicines or treatments to relieve your pain.
Testing is vital to diagnosing the autoimmune disease. From there, you can work with your doctor to figure out what treatments will best ease your symptoms.
8. A Genetic Disorder
Sometimes the root of your hand problems may be a genetic disorder. If you have family members that suffer from neuropathy, you may have hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies.
This is also known as HNPP.
HNPP harms your nerves. It’s also slightly more likely to cause numbness in your legs and arms. However, it can extend to your hands and feet.
With HNPP, it may help your numbness to avoid certain positions that can put pressure on your nerves.
Another common genetic disorder that can cause tingling in hands is Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease wears down muscle mass. Sometimes this can cause nerve problems or numbness in your hands. Usually, the symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are eased by physical therapy or special aids.
9. A Spinal Tumor
This is a cause no one likes to consider. The good news is, spinal tumors can be either cancerous or noncancerous.
Not all spinal tumors may be life-threatening.
A tumor, (or cluster of abnormally growing cells), can sometimes form on an individual’s spine. Whether it’s cancerous or not, it will still place pressure on the nerves and may lead to numbness in hands and limbs.
If this is the case, treatment may be needed to shrink the tumor.
Sometimes tumors in other areas of the body can also lead to numbness. Tumors anywhere will affect a person’s immune system. When an immune system is damaged, nerves are damaged.
If treatment can shrink the tumor on the spine, (or wherever else it may be), the tingling sensation should go away.
Doctors will usually run multiple tests to eliminate other potential causes of the numbness before they can discover a spinal tumor.
10. Thyroid Issues
Do you struggle with hyperthyroidism? If so, and it’s been left untreated, it could lead to nerve damage and pain in your hands.
Thyroid issues are caused by an underactive thyroid. This is also known as hypothyroidism. If you have this, you may be feeling more than a slight tingle in your hands and feet.
Some common symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Excessive sweating
- Heat intolerance
- Irregular heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Fatigue, weakness
- More frequent bowel movements
If you’re suffering from one or more of these symptoms, but haven’t been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, it may be wise to consult with a doctor.
Usually, hyperthyroidism causes a painful burning feeling in one’s hands. Not sure if you have thyroid problems, call your doctor.
Often, treatments for thyroid problems, (and the resulting hand tingles), are treated well with:
- Regular exercise
- A healthy body weight
- The right medications
Making adjustments to live a more healthy and active lifestyle has been known to help with many thyroid issues.
With a doctor’s advice, testing, and treatment, symptoms like tingling hands should go away.
Tingling in Hands: When to Take Action
If you’ve run through this list and still aren’t sure what may be causing your numbness, not to worry.
Tingling in hands may be caused by many different issues. Some are more serious than others.
Still, because the causes range from minor to serious, it’s always worth looking into. If you’ve been experiencing numbness, pins, and needles, or “sleepy” hands more often than usual, it’s time to call a doctor.
Put your mind (and your hands), at ease. Contact us or one of our board-certified specialists today.