Hand numbness
Sensations are carried from the extremities of the body to the brain via neurons in the spinal cord. If the blood supply to the nerves is decre...

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Definition

Hand numbness is an abnormal sensation caused by an alteration in sensory nerve function.

Alternative Names

Numb hands, numbness in hands, hand paresthesias.

Synopsis

Sensations are carried from the extremities of the body to the brain via neurons in the spinal cord. If the blood supply to the nerves is decreased, it can produce the feeling that "my hand fell asleep". If the blood loss is permanent or severe, it is called ischemia and can result in permanent nerve damage. Nerves in the hands can be compressed by swelling due to repetitive motions or prolonged vibrations. If the compression is chronic, the result can be an entrapment syndrome, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Entrapment syndromes
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Trauma
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Frostbite
  • Beriberi
  • Diabetic nerve damage
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Snake bites
  • Neuralgias
  • Rabies
  • Radiculopathy
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Toxin exposure or poisoning
  • Stroke
  • Lyme disease
  • Alcoholism
  • Malnutrition

Diagnosis and Treatments

If hand numbness is persistent and accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness and pain, it requires thorough evaluation by a physician. A complete history and physical, including family history, work history, laboratory tests may be indicated. Nerve conduction velocity tests, electromyography, imaging studies and nerve biopsy may be required. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and relieving symptoms. Physical and occupational therapy as well as stretching exercises may help alleviate symptoms once the underlying cause is found and treated.

Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD
Written: September 19, 2007
Last Updated: September 30, 2007
Published By: Healthline Networks Inc.
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