9 Causes of Tingling Hands

tingling hands

Are you suffering from the daily experience of tingling hands?

Are you wondering where this symptom came from and what you can do about it?

Tingling in the extremities, including the hands, is a common phenomenon. In fact, it is one of the most common reasons that people seek medical care. There are a variety of causes for this problem.

In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about the causes and treatment of tingling in the hands, otherwise known as peripheral neuropathy.

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a term that describes damage or irritation to nerves that are located outside of the body’s central nervous system. The central nervous system includes the brain and the spinal cord.

Peripheral neuropathy, on the other hand, includes irritation to nerves that are outside of these central locations. Peripheral neuropathy comes with a unique set of symptoms that patients experience.

Patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy often describe weakness, numbness, or pain. The pain can be associated with tingling, or tingling can occur without pain.

It is also possible for peripheral neuropathy to manifest in other ways. Some patients who have peripheral neuropathy due to an underlying medical disorder may have problems with digestion, urination, and circulation in the bloodstream.

What Is the Purpose of the Peripheral Nervous System?

The peripheral nervous system functions as a messenger system. It helps to send information in the form of electricity from the brain and spinal cord out to the extremities and the rest of the body.

Peripheral nerves are also important in detecting sensory information and sending it to the brain for central processing.

How Do I Know if I Have Peripheral Neuropathy?

Ultimately, there are a variety of causes for this medical condition. You may need to see a doctor for a concise and accurate diagnosis. There are several tests that doctors can perform to determine whether or not you have peripheral neuropathy.

However, many patients with this condition will describe pain that is stabbing in nature. They may also not have pain and simply have tingling, also known as paresthesias. Some patients will describe a burning sensation, which is due to damage to specific types of nerve fibers.

Oftentimes, symptoms will improve over time, particularly if they are caused by a medical condition that is treatable.

In most cases, there are medications that can help. However, in certain cases, surgery may be indicated.

What Are the Types of Nerves in the Peripheral Nervous System and How Do They Manifest Symptoms?

Many patients may not realize that there are different types of nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord.

For example, there are sensory nerves that help to receive sensory information at the level of the skin. This type of information can include temperature, pain, touch, or vibration.

There are special receptors in the skin that can detect this information. Peripheral nerves will be used to communicate it up to the spinal cord and brain.

On the other hand, there are also motor nerves that are used to control muscle movement. The nerves travel all the way down from the brain into the spinal cord, and ultimately out to directly interface with muscles.

There are also autonomic nerves that are involved in involuntary control of the body. These are nerves that regulate important homeostatic processes.

These include blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration, digestion, and urinary function.

The First Signs

Many patients may notice right away the gradual onset of numbness, prickling, or tingling in their extremities. This may continue to get worse over time and develop upward into the arms or legs.

Other patients may also notice extreme sensitivity to touch that progresses.

They may also start to notice pain during activities when they did not have pain in the past. This may include activities that shouldn’t cause pain in general, such as placing your foot on the floor or under a blanket.

Other types of peripheral neuropathy are involved in a lack of coordination and falling. This is either due to poor sensory or poor motor function.

As discussed above, when tingling in the hands is associated with underlying medical conditions, autonomic nerves may be affected. The first signs and symptoms of this chronic problem may include heat intolerance, too much sweating, poor regulation of blood pressure, or dizziness.

Mononeuropathy Versus Polyneuropathy

Doctors will try to distinguish between peripheral neuropathy that affects one nerve and peripheral neuropathy that affects more than one nerve. If there is tingling or symptoms in one nerve distribution, it will be described as mononeuropathy. If the symptoms affect several nerve distributions, the condition will be described as multiple mononeuropathy or polyneuropathy.

One of the most common conditions that we treat is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is an example of mononeuropathy.

However, most patients with an underlying medical condition causing their tingling hands will have polyneuropathy.

When You Should See a Doctor for Your Symptoms

As soon as you start to notice persistent and unusual tingling, weakness, or pain in your hands or feet, you should schedule a visit with your doctor.

The reason is that time is of the essence. For certain medical conditions, getting an early diagnosis is paramount.

If you catch the disease early in its course, you may have a better chance of controlling or even eliminating your symptoms over the long term. This will limit the amount of damage to your peripheral nerves, and get your body back on track.

Nine Major Causes of Tingling Hands

As discussed, there are a wide variety of metabolic, infectious, and orthopedic disorders that can cause hand conditions with tingling.

Here are nine of the most common causes for this problem.

Compression of a Nerve

One of the most common conditions that we see in our hand surgery practice is nerve compression. Many people are familiar with the term carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from nerve compression upon the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel. If the pressure in this anatomic area gets too high, damage to the median nerve can occur. This manifests as pain or tingling in a specific area of the hand or both hands.

In many cases, patients with an early diagnosis can achieve significant relief by undergoing a very short and safe surgical procedure to release the pressure in this compartment.

Other forms of nerve compression that cause tingling include compression at the spinal level. If you have a pinched nerve as the nervous system exits the spinal cord, you may lose feeling in your hand, fingers, or arm. This can also cause paresthesias or hand tingling.

Doctors and surgeons are able to identify where the compression occurs, and physical therapy or surgery may be available as treatment options.

Diabetes

One of the concerning long-term problems amongst diabetics is peripheral neuropathy.

As diabetes progresses, high blood sugar can increase the risk of nerve damage, especially in the fingers and toes. This can cause patients to lose sensation, or even develop tingling or pain.

Diabetics may also have other symptoms as well. They might first notice that they feel thirsty, urinate more than usual, or have a distinct smell in their breath.

Diabetes is detected using a blood test to assess for the effect of high blood sugar. If you have concerns about any of the symptoms, it is best to catch diabetes early so that you can promote optimal health in the future.

The earlier you catch diabetes, the more likely you are to avoid nerve damage and tingling in your hands.

Autoimmune Disorders

There are several types of autoimmune diseases that cause tingling in the hands. Two of the most common are rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Each of these disorders turns the immune system against your own body.

Unfortunately, this includes nerves as targets.

Autoimmune disorders may occur slowly over time or have a rapid onset.

Many of them are triggered by a recent infection that stirs up the immune system.

If you have a history of autoimmune disease in your family and have started to develop tingling, it is wise to see a doctor. They may ask you about your symptoms and your medical history and lead you toward a diagnosis.

Medications

Peripheral neuropathy also occurs due to certain prescription medications.

Several medications for cancer such as vincristine or vinblastine are associated with peripheral neuropathy. Other drugs for HIV or AIDS, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, or infections can also cause motor weakness or numbness. Dr. Khorsandi, said “We see a lot of patients that take Topomax for migraines who have numbness or tingling of their fingers.” He went on to say, quite often patients are surprised that the medication was the cause of their symptoms.

The good news is that most of the time this tingling will go away with a change in medication. Your doctor may lower the dose or start you on a different medication depending on the severity of your problems.

Pregnancy

Women who are becoming pregnant for the first time made notice unique changes in their bodies that they haven’t experienced before. Because you and your baby are growing, there are extra fluids inside the body that can cause compression of nerves.

This can create symptoms similar to those described above like carpal tunnel syndrome. The increase in fluid can cause numbness and tingling in the extremities, and stretching of skin may also make areas of your body like your belly feel numb.

Many pregnant women benefit from using a wrist splint at night to improve their symptoms. Most of the time, these symptoms will go away after you give birth to your child.

Infection

Many bacterial or viral infections can also cause nerve pain or paresthesias. These viruses include HIV, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis, Lyme disease, and cytomegalovirus.

Some of these infections will not go away completely, but your doctor may be able to treat your infections to improve your symptoms.

Cancers

While the risk of cancer may be lower than some other disorders on this list, it is always an important consideration in diagnosis. This is because tumors, whether they are benign or malignant, can cause compression on your nerves as they grow.

This can slowly take away the feeling in your arms and legs, and lead to tingling in your hands.

It is also possible for tumors in certain locations to affect your immune system, leading it to attack your own nerves in your body.

Alcohol

Patients with consistent or prolonged alcohol use may experience damage to their soft tissues and nerves. Prolonged alcohol use causes a deficiency of certain vitamins in the body, such as B12 and folate.

When you don’t have enough of these vitamins in your body, the function of your nerves can get worse. This can lead to you losing feeling in your extremities.

Fortunately, you can supplement these vitamins, or better yet, reduce or stop your drinking habit.

In most cases, patients will see significant improvement in their symptoms after making these lifestyle changes.

Genetic Disorders

While rare, there are several genetic disorders that can cause tingling in the hands and feet. For example, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease slowly degrades muscles in your body over time.

Patients with this disorder will need to undergo physical therapy, and potentially use special orthopedic aids to maintain function and reduce symptoms.

Seeing a Doctor for Tingling Hands

As you can see, there are a wide array of medical and surgical causes for tingling hands. If you are experiencing these symptoms as a result of nerve compression, seeing a surgeon may be beneficial. Your symptoms may also be manifestations of an underlying medical condition, so it is best to see your doctor as soon as you can.

If you are referred to Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas for evaluation of carpal tunnel syndrome, know that we are compassionate and skilled providers who use the full array of hand treatment options.

We treat hundreds of patients just like you every year and want to help you reduce or limit symptoms and live life to the fullest. Please contact us if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.

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