What causes numbness and tingling in the hands and feet and what should I do?

Symptom Database

Have you ever experienced a tingling sensation or numbness in your hands or feet? If so, you may be wondering what causes these symptoms and what you should do about them. In this article, we will explore the world of neurology and peripheral neuropathy to understand the underlying causes of numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, and provide valuable insights on how to manage and potentially alleviate these sensations.

Understanding Numbness and Tingling

Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that can occur in various parts of the body, including the hands and feet. These sensations are often described as a “pins and needles” feeling or a loss of sensation in the affected area. While they can be temporary and harmless, persistent or recurring numbness and tingling may indicate an underlying issue.

Causes of Numbness and Tingling

Peripheral Neuropathy

One of the most common causes of numbness and tingling in the hands and feet is peripheral neuropathy. This condition occurs when there is damage to the peripheral nerves, which are responsible for transmitting signals between the central nervous system and the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves over time.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can lead to nerve damage.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Lack of essential vitamins, such as B12, can affect nerve health.
  • Toxic exposure: Certain chemicals or medications can cause nerve damage.

Nerve Compression

Another common cause of numbness and tingling in the hands and feet is nerve compression. This occurs when a nerve is compressed or pinched, disrupting its normal function. Conditions that can lead to nerve compression include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Compression of the median nerve in the wrist.
  • Herniated disc: Pressure on the nerves in the spine.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: Compression of the tibial nerve in the ankle.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While occasional numbness and tingling may not be cause for concern, there are instances where medical attention should be sought. It is important to consult a healthcare professional if:

  • The symptoms are persistent or worsening.
  • There is weakness or loss of coordination accompanying the numbness and tingling.
  • The symptoms are affecting your daily activities and quality of life.
  • You have a history of diabetes or other underlying medical conditions.

Managing Numbness and Tingling

While some causes of numbness and tingling may require medical intervention, there are steps you can take to manage these symptoms on your own:

  • Practice good posture: Maintaining proper posture can help alleviate nerve compression in the spine and wrists.
  • Exercise regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity can improve circulation and nerve health.
  • Avoid repetitive motions: If your symptoms are related to repetitive motions, take breaks and vary your activities to reduce strain on the nerves.
  • Manage underlying conditions: If you have diabetes or other medical conditions, work with your healthcare provider to manage them effectively.
  • Consider alternative therapies: Techniques such as acupuncture or physical therapy may provide relief for some individuals.


Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet can be caused by various factors, including peripheral neuropathy and nerve compression. While occasional symptoms may not be cause for concern, persistent or worsening sensations should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. By understanding the underlying causes and implementing appropriate management strategies, individuals can potentially alleviate these symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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