What is Numbness in Fingertips?
Numbness in the fingertips is felt as if the fingers or fingertips have fallen asleep, i.e. there is loss of sensation or feeling in the fingertips. Numbness in the fingertips is also described as tingling sensation in the fingertips. Neurons in the spinal cord help in carrying the sensations of the body to the brain. If there is any hindrance or constriction in the blood supply to the nerves or if there is any nerve damage, then it can cause numbness in the fingertips. Severe or permanent blood loss, which is also known as ischemia, can cause permanent nerve damage. Damage to the nerves present in the fingers can also occur when there is decrease in blood supply to the fingers, such as seen in medical conditions like diabetes.
Causes of Numbness in Fingertips
The cause of numbness in fingertips can be due to damage, compression, irritation of the nerves or a branch of the nerves, which supply to arm and wrist. Diseases such as diabetes, which affect the peripheral nerves, can also cause numbness in the fingertips. Problems in the spinal cord or brain can also cause numbness in the fingertips. However, patient also feels loss of function or weakness in the hand or the arm. Majority of the times, numbness alone does not indicate serious problems such as strokes or tumors.
Various tests will be carried out to determine the cause of the numbness in fingertips. Some of the possible causes of numbness in the fingertips include:
- Compression of the peripheral nerves often causes numbness in fingertips.
- Diabetic nerve damage usually results in numbness in fingertips.
- Frostbite is a very common cause for numb fingertips.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Peripheral neuropathy can also cause numbness in fingertips.
- Trauma or injury to the spinal cord.
- Poisoning or toxin exposure.
- Pernicious anemia.
- Guillain-Barre syndrome.
- Snake bites.
- Chronic alcohol use.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Brachial plexus injury.
- Cervical spondylosis.
- Ganglion cysts.
- Lyme disease.
- Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system.
- Raynaud's disease.
- As a side effect to chemotherapy drugs.
- Sjogren's syndrome.
- Compression of the ulnar nerve.
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Associated Symptoms of Numbness in Fingertips
Patient should seek immediate medical attention in the following cases:
- If the numbness in fingertips persists or spreads to other parts of the body.
- If the numbness in fingertips worsens.
- If the numbness in fingertips starts suddenly and is accompanied with weakness/ paralysis, difficulty talking, confusion, dizziness or a severe/sudden headache.
- If numb fingertips seems to be related to certain activities especially, which involve repetitive motions.
Investigations to Diagnose Numbness in Fingertips
- Nerve conduction velocity tests.
- Imaging studies.
- Nerve biopsy.
Treatment for Numbness in Fingertips
Treatment for Numb Fingertips depends on the underlying cause. Once the cause is treated, numbness in the fingertips will go away. Occupational and physical therapy helps in alleviating the symptoms. Stretching exercises can also helps in decreasing the symptoms.