Symptom: Numbness

    Numbness describes a loss of sensation or feeling in a part of your body. Numbness often is accompanied by other changes in sensation, such as a pins-and-needles feeling, burning or tingling. Numbness can occur along a single nerve, or it may occur on both sides of the body in a symmetrical pattern.


    Fortunately, numbness by itself is only rarely associated with potentially life-threatening disorders, such as strokes or tumors.

    Your doctor will need detailed information about your symptoms to diagnose the cause of your numbness. A variety of tests may be needed to confirm the cause before appropriate treatment can begin.

    1. Acoustic neuroma
    2. Alcoholism or chronic alcohol use
    3. Amyloidosis
    4. Brachial plexus injury
    5. Brain aneurysm
    6. Brain AVM — abnormal connections between blood vessels in the brain
    7. (both cancerous and noncancerous)
    8. Carpal tunnel syndrome
    9. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
    10. Diabetes
    11. Fabry's disease
    12. Guillain-Barre syndrome
    13. Herniated disk
    14. Leprosy
    15. Lyme disease
    16. Multiple sclerosis
    17. Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system
    18. Peripheral nerve compression (ulnar or peroneal nerves)
    19. Peripheral neuropathy
    20. Raynaud's disease
    21. Shingles
    22. Side effects of chemotherapy or anti-HIV drugs
    23. Sjogren's syndrome
    24. Spinal cord injury
    25. Syphilis
    26. Thoracic aortic aneurysm
    27. Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
    28. Uremia
    29. Vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
    30. Vitamin B-12 deficiency

    Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.


    Call 911 or go to the emergency room if your numbness:

    • Begins suddenly
    • Follows a recent head injury
    • Involves an entire arm or leg

    Also seek emergency medical care if your numbness is accompanied by:

    • Weakness or paralysis
    • Confusion
    • Difficulty talking
    • Dizziness
    • Sudden, severe headache

    You are likely to have a CT scan or MRI if:

    • You've had a head injury
    • Your doctor suspects or needs to rule out a brain tumor or stroke

    Schedule an office visit if your numbness:

    • Begins or worsens gradually
    • 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 your toes or fingers


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