Losing feeling in your fingers and toes can be a symptom of a number of diseases. If this numbness is not felt with pain or skin discoloration, it could just be the body’s response to the cold or something else harmless. But if the numbness or tingling is chronic or ongoing, you will want to see a doctor and undergo testing to determine the cause.
What Causes Numbness in Fingers and Toes?
Vitamin B Deficiency
If your body is lacking in vitamin B12, it can be a cause of numbness in a person’s fingers and toes. This vitamin helps to maintain healthy nerve cells, along with the creation of red blood cell and normal immune system function. Foods that are rich in vitamin B12 include shellfish, turkey, chicken, eggs, salmon and more.
Numbness in the feet and toes is very common in people with uncontrolled diabetes. When excess sugar accumulates in the bloodstream, it stresses the typical functions of the vessels and makes it difficult for normal blood flow. This in turn damages nerves that sense temperature, pressure and pain, most notably in the lower extremities.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
You may have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome in relation to spending too much time at your computer typing. This disease is caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This nerve along with other tendons runs from your forehand to your hand through a small space in the wrist known as the carpal tunnel. The pressure can cause tingling and numbness in the thumb and every finger except the pinkie.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is the same as carpal tunnel syndrome, except it appears in the leg and foot. Tarsal tunnel syndrome comes from pressure on the tibial nerve, which causes numbness and pain in the ankle, toes or the bottom of the foot. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is much less common than carpal tunnel syndrome, and can be caused by flat feet, ankle injuries or arthritis.
A smaller stroke is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), and happens when there’s a temporary blockage in one of the blood vessels of the brain. Strokes can be prevented with blood thinning medications, and can be treated with anti-platelet medications to clear up the blockage. Untreated, these strokes can cause numbness in fingers and toes. Depending on how much time passes from the blockage to treatment, this numbness can be temporary or permanent.
When someone has multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the myelin, the protective sheath that covers the nerves. This causes disruptions in communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Eventually, the nerves deteriorate and become permanently damaged, resulting in numbness and tingling in the extremities. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, though some medications can slow the progression of the disease.
Angina is the precursor to a heart attack: the first onset of pain when a blood vessel becomes blocked. It usually has chest and arm pain coupled with tingling or numbness in the arm, wrist or shoulder.
This is a relatively rare disease when the blood vessels in the fingers and toes constrict and limit blood flow when exposed to the cold or extreme stress. The skin turns white and then blue, accompanied by numbness in the fingers and toes. Other organs such as the ears, nose and lips can also be affected. Possible causes of Raynaud’s syndrome include artery diseases, autoimmune diseases, smoking and certain medications.
This autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium, or the lining of the membranes that surround your joints. This form of arthritis progresses slowly, and pain and numbness in the fingers, toes, wrist and knees are some of the primary symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with drugs that target the parts of the immune system that cause inflammation.
Also known as a herniated disc, this is when the pads between the vertebrae rupture. This impacts the nerves, causing numbness in areas either above or below the injured disc. Slipped discs can come from improper lifting, gradual degenerative disease and more. Depending on how bad the problem is, it could be treated with surgery, medications or physical therapy.
An electrolyte imbalance typically happens when the body is dehydrated. Electrolytes are the many salts and minerals, such as calcium, sodium and potassium, which control electrical impulses throughout the body. Electrolytes help control muscle function, the production of energy and many other chemical processes in the body. If your electrolytes drop suddenly, this can result in numbness in fingers and toes. You can easily get your electrolytes back in order by drinking a sugary beverage or eating something.
Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal
When the body is trying to adjust to the lack of drugs and alcohol in the body, numbness in the extremities can occur. It’s especially common in withdrawal from benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Librium and Valium.
Additional causes of numbness and tingling include certain medications, tobacco use, radiation therapy and frostbite. Sitting or standing for a long time period can also cause decreased circulation, leading to temporary numbness. Lead poisoning is a rare cause of numbness, and only happens after an extremely long exposure to toxic levels of lead.
Home Care for Numbness in Fingers and Toes
Once you have a diagnosis from your doctor, the treatment for numbness in your fingers and toes can vary.
People with carpal tunnel syndrome or a slipped disc may need physical therapy or exercises to improve blood flow.
If diabetes is the cause, your doctor will help you figure out how to get your blood sugar levels under control.
Low vitamin B12 levels can be adjusted with supplements.
If drugs are related to your numbness, change them with talking to your doctor.
If you have chronic numbness, you may not have the usual pain threshold and be more prone to injury. Be sure to watch out for cuts, bruises, burns and more.