What Is Numbness In Fingers?
Numbness In Fingers Hands are equipped with very sensitive touch receptors that use a vast network of nerves to send impulses to the brain. A loss of feeling or sensation in the fingertips – described as numbness in the fingers – can occur in one hand or symmetrically in both hands.
Should any of the nerves transmitting to and from the brain and hand be pinched or damaged even slightly, the brain may not receive the sensory information from the hand resulting in a loss of sensation or numbness either in the fingers or the whole hand. 1
There are several cause of numbness of the fingers most of which injure or pinch the nerves in someway.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome in which the median nerve (running to the hand from the forearm) becomes pinched at the wrist is one of the major causes of numbness in the fingers.
- Diabetes if left untreated causes numbness in the fingers caused by nerve damage from complications due to diabetes.
- Epicondylitis (commonly known as tennis elbow) is a condition that results from weakening of the tendons found around the elbow which resultantly strains the nerves. In early stages, tennis elbow can cause numbness in the fingers.
- Thyroid disorders typically hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) damage the nervous system and disrupt the information stream between the body, brain and spinal cord. Numbness especially in outlying areas of the body like fingers can be caused by hypothyroidism.
- Long term heavy alcohol consumption leads to alcoholic neuropathy (damage of the nerves) that results numbness in the fingers experienced by up to half of all heavy users.
- Non cancerous ganglion cysts are lumps or deposits that form in various parts of the body but especially around the joints. When a ganglion cyst forms in the wrist it causes numbness in the fingers.
- Lyme disease, a rare condition only gotten from tick bites has also been cause numbness in the fingers amongst other symptoms.
- Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that causes the immune system to attack the fatty substance protecting nerve fibers; one of its signs is numbness in the fingers.
- Strokes are often heralded by numbness in the fingers.
Numbness in the fingers is usually accompanied by few symptoms unless caused by an underlying condition like those mentioned above. When numbness in the fingers is not a symptom of another condition, it is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Numbness causes a tingling or prickling feeling sometimes described as pins and needles.
- A slight burning sensation can also be caused by numbness
- Clumsiness picking things up or performing elaborate activities like playing the piano.
- Weakness in the hands or fingers.
- Numbness in the fingers due to carpal tunnel syndrome commonly occurs to people who engage in an activity where they often lay their wrists against edges or hard surfaces e.g. while typing on a computer. Others symptoms include a tingling or swollen sensation in one or more of your fingers – usually the thumb, index or middle finger.
- Untreated diabetes causes numbness in the fingers alongside blurry vision, heart failure and kidney trouble.
- Tennis elbow is common amongst people who repetitively twist the elbow wrist or hand for example cleaners, golfers, tennis players etc. Numbness or tingling due to tennis elbow is usually accompanied by some pain the elbow depending on how far the damage to the tendons have has gone.
- When numbness in finger is caused by hypothyroidism others symptoms usually include: weight gain, hair loss and feeling cold all the time.
- Men and women consuming more than four and three drinks a day respectively may be suffering nerve damage due to alcoholism. Alcoholic neuropathy causes numbness in the fingers that is usually accompanied by muscle weakness, a pins and needles sensation in limbs and overall numbness in the limbs.
- People spending too much time in the woods or working closely from animals are likely to have numbness caused by Lyme disease. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever or chills and skin rash.
- Double vision, limb and muscle weakness are some of the symptoms accompanying numbness in the fingers caused by multiple sclerosis2,4,5
- Diabetes can be treated by using medication and hormones to regulate sugar levels in the blood. This cures numbness in the fingers and other accompanying symptoms.
- Ganglion cysts may go away without any treatment, but if they continue to cause pain and numbness in the fingers, they can be surgically removed or aspired (draining the fluid from a ganglion cyst using a syringe).
- Numbness in the fingers that is caused by tennis elbow is treated by refraining from the strenuous activity and healthily exercising the elbow joint.
- If numbness in the fingers is not caused by any apparent underlying conditions then it is treated as follows:
- The doctor may recommend non steroidal over the counter (OTC) anti inflammatory medicine e.g. acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Should over the counter medication not effectively treat the condition the doctor may then use steroid injections that reduce inflammation.
- If the numbness is due to a slightly pinched nerve, the doctor may recommend wearing a brace or splint to keep the wrist or elbow in a proper position to ease the pressure on the nerve.
- In extreme cases surgery may be required to reduce the bones pressing on the nerves or reduce nerve damage. Such surgical procedures include: ulnar nerve anterior transposition, cubital tunnel release and medical epicondylectomy1,2
Rest the hand and apply ice to the affected area to ease inflammation.
Regular exercises that stretch the hand and the wrist are the best way to reduce discomfort. These include:
- Stretching the fingers out wide and holding the position for about 10 seconds.
- Rotating the hands in a clockwise then anticlockwise direction 10 times.
- Roll the shoulders forward 5 times and backwards 5 times.
- If carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated for long one may require surgery to relieve the pinched nerve.
- If numbness in the hand is a preceding symptom of a stroke, one may suffer the adverse effects of the stroke, if medical help is not sought immediately1,4
Finger numbness can be prevented by avoiding repetitive strenuous motions and activities by:
- Good posture whenever using a tool that requires repetitive motions.
- Taking breaks every hour when engaging in strenuous activity to the wrist and hands.
- Exercising the muscles to reduce tension.
- Using ergonomic devices like a wrist brace for people using keyboards for long hours.
- Ten Reason Your Hands Are Going Numb. Retrieved from Prevention – https://prevention.com/health/10-reasons-your-hands-are-going-numb
- Finger Numbness. Retrieved from Healthline – https://healthline.com/health/finger-numbness
- Hand and Finger Numbness: Check your Symptoms and Signs. Retrieved from MedicineNet – https://medicinenet.com/numbness_fingers/symptoms
- Numbness in Hands. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic – https://mayoclinic.org/symptoms/numbness-in-hands/basic/when-to-see-a-doctor/sym-20050842
- Get the Right Diagnosis For Numb Fingers. Retrieved from Spine Health – https://spine-health.com/blog/getting-right-diagnosis-numb-fingers