Why Are My Fingers Numb?

Numbness is a loss of feeling or sensitivity in a part of your body. If you’ve noticed numbness in your fingers, there are a lot of possible causes.

Injured or pinched nerves can lead to numb fingers. So can blood flow issues or a range of other medical conditions.

The feeling can be harmless and go away on its own. But if it comes back, it’s something you should talk about with your doctor. She can help you figure out what may be causing it.

Diabetes

If you have diabetes, high blood sugar can, over time, damage your nerves, a condition called “peripheral neuropathy.”

Finger numbness or tingling is one of the symptoms, but others can include:

  • Tingling or numbness in feet or legs
  • Tingling or numbness in arms
  • Pain or cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor balance
  • Slow reflexes
  • Burning or pain

Once high blood sugar has damaged your nerves, there’s no treatment that can reverse that damage. But some prescription medicines can help people handle the symptoms. These include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and skin creams. You should also keep your diabetes under control to prevent neuropathy from getting worse.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your wrist has a small space known as the carpal tunnel. Many of the nerves that control your fingers and hands pass through this tunnel.

If you spend a lot of time working on a computer or doing other activities that strain your wrists, you can irritate or cause swelling in the carpal tunnel. Arthritis also can cause swelling.

It can pinch off nerves and cause numbness in your fingers. It’s known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Other symptoms you may have are:

  • Pain in hands or fingers
  • Tingling in hands or fingers
  • Weak grip
  • Fumbling or clumsiness
  • Dropping things

Make some changes to relieve pressure on your wrists. When you’re using a computer, smartphone, or other devices, take breaks often to give your hands and arms a rest. Keep your wrists straight, not bent up, when using a mouse and keyboard. This can ease your carpal tunnel symptoms.

A doctor may also suggest wearing splints to keep your wrist in a position that won’t hurt your nerves. If arthritis causes the swelling in your carpal tunnel, steroid shots may help.

Continued

Compressed Nerves

Apart from carpal tunnel syndrome, a number of other health issues can pinch off the nerves in your arms or wrists. These conditions include:

  • Nerve injuries
  • Enlarged muscles
  • Enlarged blood vessels
  • Cysts

All of these can cause numbness in one or more of your fingers. You might also feel pain or weakness.

Treatment depends on the cause of your pinched nerve. It helps to take time away from activities that make your symptoms worse. In some cases, you may need surgery to repair the nerve.

Alcohol Use Disorders

Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol over a long time can lead to a type of nerve damage called alcoholic polyneuropathy. It can cause finger numbness. Other symptoms can include:

  • Tingling or numbness in arms, legs, or feet
  • “Pins and needles” sensation in hands, arms, legs, or feet
  • Pain in arms or legs
  • Falls or stumbling
  • Muscle weakness, cramps, or spasms
  • Trouble swallowing or eating

The main thing that will help is to quit drinking alcohol, which can stop the nerve damage from getting worse. Medical detox and rehab programs can help if you’re struggling with alcohol use. After that, other options to treat polyneuropathy symptoms include:

Fibromyalgia

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain that does not have a clear cause. But it can also cause numb fingers and other symptoms, such as:

Doctors think fibromyalgia may come from a problem with the way the brain handles pain signals. There’s no cure, but treatments can help you manage the symptoms. Medications can ease pain and help you sleep. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling can help you find ways to handle your symptoms in everyday life. It also helps to get regular exercise and find ways to lower stress.

Other Causes

Other medical issues also can lead to finger numbness, including:

If your finger numbness is a new symptom, doesn’t go away, or becomes painful, tell your doctor.

Get emergency medical help if numbness in your hand or arm is sudden or happens after you have a head injury. If you have any weakness, trouble thinking or talking, have a sudden, severe headache, or feel dizzy, you also need to get help right away.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 01, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Numbness in Hands,” “Diabetic Neuropathy: Symptoms & Causes,” “Diabetic Neuropathy: Diagnosis & Treatment,” “Fibromyalgia: Symptoms and Causes,” “Fibromyalgia: Diagnosis & Treatment.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Diabetic Neuropathy,” “Peripheral Neuropathy.”

American Society for Surgery of the Hand: “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome,” “Numb Hands,” “Nerve Injuries.” 

Arthritis Foundation: “Explaining Numbness in Fingers and Thumb.”

Alcohol.org: “Alcoholic Polyneuropathy Issues and Treatment.”

American College of Rheumatology: “Raynaud’s Phenomenon.”

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