Numbness in hands can be caused by a simple situation, such as cold, or be a symptom of a serious illness. We explain what you should know.
Numbness in the hands is a common sensation that is unpleasant. It consists of this area of the body becoming rigid or inflexible. In addition, it is usually accompanied by tingling.
It is a common reason for consulting the doctor. The problem is that its origin is very varied, so it can be difficult to reach a correct diagnosis. In this article we explain everything you need to know about hand numbness and its most typical etiology.
What is numbness in hands?
Numbness of the hands, as we have explained, is an alteration of the sensation and movement of this part of the body. The sense of touch is distorted and it is inconvenient to move your fingers.
On many occasions, in addition to tingling, it is accompanied by burning or tingling. It depends on what the cause is, it will be located only in the fingers, in a single limb or in both.
A reason for hand numbness can be the cold, which is quite common and does not usually carry any consequences. However, according to a study carried out in Sweden, the most common pathology that causes it is carpal tunnel syndrome. This research explains that 1 in 5 people who experience this symptom is likely due to this syndrome.
Causes of hand numbness
Hand numbness can be caused by a multitude of situations. It is produced by an injury to the nerves (for example, because they are compressed or injured) that innervate the upper limb or by systemic pathologies that affect there.
However, it is also possible that the alteration is in the brain or in the spinal cord, since they are two organs that coordinate both sensitivity and motor skills. However, these injuries are usually more serious and associated with obvious or disabling symptoms.
Metabolic and infectious diseases, as well as certain medical treatments, also lead to this situation. In the following sections we will explain in more detail what the main causes of the problem are
Brain and nervous system conditions
Any pathology that affects the nervous system, in the case that it damages an area related to the hands, can cause numbness of the same. For example, Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is a disorder in which the immune system itself attacks nerve cells.
According to a study published in the Postgraduate Journal of the VI Chair of Medicine, numbness in the hands is one of its diagnostic symptoms. Cervical spondylosis is also related to this, since it consists of a wear of the intervertebral discs, from where the nerves that go to the extremities start.
Trauma or overuse injuries
In this category we find the carpal tunnel syndrome that we pointed out at the beginning. It is a pathology in which the median nerve is compressed, the one that follows a path from the forearm to the fingers. This causes wrist pain, numbness, cramps, and tingling.
Although it is the main cause, there are other syndromes and injuries that also cause it. For example, cubital tunnel syndrome, in which the compressed nerve is different. The same happens with brachial plexus damage after an accident.
The final mechanism ends in a common path that is tightening or compression. The brain misinterprets signals from compressed neurons and sends signals of tingling, pain, and even paralysis to the hands.
Infectious diseases that cause hand numbness
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bite of certain ticks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when you don’t treat it in time, numbness in the hands is common.
Another pathology of infectious cause that can cause this symptom is syphilis. Something similar happens as in the previous disease. When you delay its treatment, it causes damage to the nervous system due to evolution of the signs.
There are many diseases that, throughout their course, end up damaging the nerves. With this, the end result is the alteration of sensitivity and motor skills. Diabetes is one of the most important and frequent. It produces the diabetic neuropathy, which, according to the University of California, is a cause of numbness in the hands.
Alcohol consumption, amyloidosis and multiple sclerosis are also chronic processes that affect the upper limbs. Although it is true that cancer itself is not the most common etiology of this sign, chemotherapy treatment constitutes a combination of drugs with this adverse effect.
Other possible causes of hand numbness
An anecdotal fact is the ganglions. These are cysts that frequently appear in the joints, for example on the wrist. If they grow too large or press on a nearby nerve, it will culminate in the numbing effect.
On the other hand, vasculitis works by reducing the flow of blood to the palm of the hand and fingers. Vasculitis are inflammation of the walls of the arteries that reduce the caliber of the arteries. As less oxygen reaches the tissues, they react with signs of damage.
When to consult a doctor?
If you notice numbness in your hands, it is essential that you see a doctor. He should perform a physical examination and the relevant complementary tests to reach the diagnosis.
As we have seen, the causes are varied, so it is possible that at first there is no clear resolution. It will take a series of approaches to specify a name for the disorder that afflicts you. But you should stay calm, since most of the time they are solvable causes.
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