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My hands feel numb, what does it mean?

May 27, 2012
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hand healthAccording to the Mayo Clinic, numbness in one or both hands describes a loss of sensation or feeling in your hand or fingers. Numbness in hands is usually caused by irritation or compression of a branch of a nerve traveling to the arms, hands or fingers. Numbness in hands may be accompanied by tingling, burning, weakness or sometimes sharp pain.

If you experience hand numbness, consult with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, numbness in hands is associated with life-threatening diseases, such as a stroke.

Possible causes of numbness in one or both of your hands include:


Amyloidosis (when substances called amyloid proteins build up in your organs)

Brachial plexus injury (an injury to the network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand)

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Cervical spondylosis (age-related wear and tear affecting the disks in your neck)

Type 2 diabetes

Ganglion cysts (noncancerous fluid-filled lumps that most commonly develop along the tendons or joints of your wrists or hands)

Guillain-Barre syndrome (an uncommon disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves)


Lyme disease (a tick-borne illness)

Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system (a group of rare disorders that develop in some people with cancer)

Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that often causes numbness and pain in your hands and feet)

Raynaud's disease (a condition that causes some areas of your body to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress)

Side effects of chemotherapy drugs

Sjogren's syndrome (an autoimmune disease that causes dry eyes and dry mouth)

Spinal cord injury



Syringomyelia (the development of a fluid-filled cyst, or syrinx, within your spinal cord)

Ulnar nerve compression

Vasculitis (an inflammation of your blood vessels)

Vitamin B-12


When to see a doctor

It's important to determine the cause of numbness in one or both of your hands. If numbness persists or spreads to other parts of your body, consult your doctor for an evaluation. Treatment of numbness in hands depends on the underlying cause.

Call 911 or get emergency medical help if your numbness:
Begins suddenly
Involves a whole arm
Is accompanied by weakness or paralysis, confusion, difficulty talking, dizziness, or a sudden, severe headache

Schedule an office visit if your numbness:
Begins or worsens gradually and persists
Spreads to other parts of the body
Affects both sides of the body
Comes and goes
Seems related to certain tasks or activities, particularly repetitive motions
Affects only a part of a limb, such as a finger

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