What is numbness?

Numbness is an abnormal condition in which a person feels tingling or a loss of sensation. Numbness can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most often felt in the extremities, such as the hands, feet, fingers, and toes.

There are many different causes of numbness. Numbness usually arises from a lack of blood supply to an area, nerve compression, or nerve damage. Numbness can also result from infection, inflammation, trauma, and other abnormal processes. Most cases of numbness are not due to life-threatening disorders, but it does occur with stroke and tumors.

Numbness is often associated with or preceded by pain-like pins-and-needles, prickling, or burning sensations called paresthesias. Whereas numbness is a loss of sensation, paralysis involves a loss of movement, with or without the loss of sensation. The goal of the clinical evaluation is to identify the root cause for the numbness.

Depending on the cause, numbness can disappear quickly, such as numbness in the hand and arm from sleeping on your arm that will fade away once you move your arm around. Chronic numbness in the legs or arms over a long period of time generally indicates some level of damage to the nerves, such as that due to diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Chronic numbness in the fingers may be due to nerve entrapment, as is the case in carpal tunnel syndrome.

Because numbness can be a symptom of an underlying disease, disorder or condition, you should talk with your medical professional about any unusual sensations that last more than a few minutes.

If you experience numbness with loss of bladder or bowel control, paralysis, confusion, weakness in the extremities or slurred speech, seek immediate medical attention in an emergency facility.


What other symptoms might occur with numbness?

Numbness may also be described as a tingling sensation, and numbness after sitting in one position for a long period of time can lead to a pins-and-needles sensation. Numbness most often occurs in the arms, legs, hands and feet, but can happen anywhere in the body. You may experience additional symptoms along with numbness. Any symptoms you notice occurring with numbness can help your doctor ma... Read more about numbnesssymptoms


What causes numbness?

Numbness can be a symptom of a wide variety of diseases, disorders or conditions that either restrict blood flow or cause injury to the nerves.

Temporary numbness can be due to any activity that causes prolonged pressure on a nerve or nerves, such as sitting cross legged or bicycling long distance. Numbness can occur with moderate to serious orthopedic or circulatory conditions, a... Read more about numbnesscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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